Keith Olbermann interviewed Carlos Olivas Jr. last night. This wonderful young man was moved by the plight of Francisco Felix, the man whose donor liver went to another patient because he could not come up with $200,000 overnight to receive the surgery. Ths article from the Arizona Republic tells Carlos’ story:
“Boy, 12, Raising Money for Transplant Patient” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee – Dec. 12, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Carlos Olivas Jr., 12, loves to play video games and baseball. But for the past three weeks, Olivas has put both hobbies on hold to pursue his new goal: to raise at least $2,500 in dimes for a stranger to receive a potentially life-saving surgery.
The seventh-grader has been standing at the corner of 75th Avenue and Camelback Road in Glendale every day after school to solicit donations for Francisco Felix, a Laveen liver-disease patient who lost his chance to receive a transplant procedure when he could not come up with $200,000 overnight to receive the surgery.
Felix is one of about 100 Arizonans who lost coverage for transplant surgeries through the state’s version of Medicaid.
Olivas, from Glendale, decided to collect donations after watching a local news segment on Felix. Olivas’ dad has liver
cirrhosis, and Felix’s story hit home. Olivas cried at the thought of his dad being denied a transplant surgery and no one doing anything about it.
Last Tuesday – two weeks after Olivas began his “dime walk” – he met Felix at a news conference. The two spoke through a translator, and then embraced. “You can tell he’s real stressed out. I’m sure he wants to watch his children grow up,” Olivas said. “I hope I could raise enough money to help him get his transplant.”
Olivas goes home to do his homework after school ends at 3:15 p.m. By 4:30 p.m., he is out at the busy intersection collecting change for an hour, holding a Folgers container and a large sign explaining his cause. On weekends, he starts his hourlong shift at noon.
Some days, Olivas only collects a few dollars. But last Wednesday afternoon, the day after local media first began reporting on his efforts, drivers gave him $10 and $20 bills. Some drivers waited, holding up traffic after the light turned green, until Olivas came to their windows to collect their donations.
Olivas recruited his brother to collect money at the opposite corner of the intersection. His school also has joined in on the effort, holding a “dress-down” day Friday when students paid at least $1 to wear casual clothes to school instead of uniforms.
The school raised $1,557.37 as of Fridayand will continue accepting donations until Thursday, when Olivas will present the money to Felix and his family at a school assembly.
“So often as administrators you get caught up in the X’s and O’s of the curriculum and the need to teach the academics that you forget how wonderful it is when you see the social growth and the maturity of your students,” said Jeff Vilardi, assistant principal at Don Mensendick School. The school’s social-studies teachers are using the situation to teach their students about government and the realities of a state’s budget.
The staff and students have shown an “overwhelmingly positive response,” Vilardi said, partly because the student body is largely Hispanic, like Felix, and some families also are enrolled in Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.
“They’re really rallying behind what could be a reality for them,” Vilardi said.
Olivas doesn’t know how much he has raised yet, but he estimates he has collected about $200 just by standing out on the street. He said he doesn’t want to count until later this week.
Olivas’ dad and aunt sometimes join him at the intersection, but they leave the fundraising up to Olivas because it’s a personal goal for him, and they want to keep it “his thing.”
“That’s all he’s focused on now – school, and this,” said Anita Ruelas, Olivas’ aunt. “The only time he doesn’t have the sign is during school hours.”
Olivas hopes to start a foundation for transplant patients when he grows up. Olivas said he wants his foundation to be similar to the breast-cancer movement.
“I feel sad because they’re (transplant patients) dying slowly, and I want to help them live longer,” Olivas said.
If you wish to help the Felix family and others, go to the National Transplant Assistance Fund. Contributions can also be made by phone at 1-800-642-8393.