A fundraiser at Vallarta's Restaurant Monday night helped Yolanda Cruz (dubbed "Mama Bear" by her kids) and her daughter Heather, 19, who is fighting Hodgkin's lymphoma. Craig residents can still help the family by donating to an account in Cruz's name at Bank of the West.

Photo by Erin Fenner

A fundraiser at Vallarta's Restaurant Monday night helped Yolanda Cruz (dubbed "Mama Bear" by her kids) and her daughter Heather, 19, who is fighting Hodgkin's lymphoma. Craig residents can still help the family by donating to an account in Cruz's name at Bank of the West.

Community fundraiser helps family coping with cancer

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People interested in helping out the Cruz family can donate money to their fundraising account at the Bank of the West under Yolanda Cruz’s name.

Yolanda Cruz’s youngest daughter, Alexandria collects tabs from pop cans or other aluminum cans to donate to the Ronald McDonald House in Denver. The tabs are recycled and the money helps funds the house which aids children facing diseases like Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The Cruz family, lifelong residents of Craig, is one that sticks together.

Yolanda Cruz and her four children, Anastasia, 21; Heather, 19; Alexandria, 16; and John, 14, are a tight-knit, loving family.

Unfortunately, Heather was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October. The 19-year-old undergoes bi-monthly chemotherapy treatments, which caused the loss of her hair and weeks of extreme illness and discomfort. But all the while, her family keeps close. Her siblings help by rubbing her back, making her laugh and painting her nails. Her latest nail color is a deep primary blue.

“They’re there for her spiritually and emotionally,” Yolanda said.

Heather smiled when she mentioned her brother and sisters.

“My family just keeps me positive,” she said. “They keep me going in so many ways. They support me.”

But the bills have been financially straining. Yolanda isn’t the sort who likes to ask for help, but Adriana Robbins, financial services consultant at the Bank of the West, thought she could find a way to make things easier for the Cruz family.

“They’re customers of ours. I got to talking to her one day. She’s was just sort of telling me what was going on in her life, and why she was so stressed,” Robbins said. “She was hurting for money, and I asked her if she reached out to the community.”

With reassurance from Robbins, Yolanda agreed to a fundraiser.

“She convinced me that it’s OK to ask for a little bit of help,” Yolanda said.

“She’s barely been able to make ends meet. She’s paying for everything to take care of her children without any real assistance,” Robbins said. “I told her this was a really great community that pulls together.”

Robbins got together with Shannon Moore, membership director with the Craig Chamber of Commerce, to set up a fundraiser with Vallarta’s Restaurant that went off without a hitch Monday. It was slow, probably because of spring break, but still brought out a supportive crowd, Moore said. As of press time, Vallarta’s reported $300 in donations to the Cruz family, which was 20 percent of their evening profits.

But Robbins and Moore don’t want the help to end there. They assisted Yolanda in setting up a fundraising account at Bank of the West in the Cruz name so Craig residents can continue to drop by and show their support.

Robbins said she was inspired by the Cruz family, and wanted to make sure they got the help they needed.

“It takes the members of the community to make a community, and we have to be there for each other and support each other,” Robbins said. Yolanda is “doing her part by taking care of her children and bearing this on her own. She’s shown so much strength already. She’s been so humble, and I find that inspiring — how much she has given to her own children.”

Heather will go through testing again in June in Denver to determine if the treatment has been effective in fighting the cancer. The Cruz family is hopeful and confident.

“I’m so proud of her, because she’s so strong,” Yolanda said. “She’s a rock. She really is.”

Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

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