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Community Rallies Around Family After Teen's Death

Glendora High School graduate Chris Vega inspired a community to help a family in need. After his death Monday, a community continues to show its support.

Up to 800 people gathered on the Glendora High School track field Tuesday evening in tribute to Chris Vega, the 18-year-old Glendora High School graduate who died of leukemia Monday.

Although many of the people gathered on Tuesday said they didn’t know Vega personally, many of them followed his valiant battle through updates on various social media sites.

Throughout the past year since Vega was diagnosed with leukemia, community members rallied together to host community blood drives and fundraisers in support of Vega and his family. The story of his battle against leukemia and his family’s financial struggles continued to grow within a tight-knit community.

Vega and his two younger brothers were raised in Glendora and attended schools in the Glendora Unified School District. Vega’s mother, Annie, is a popular teacher at Sellers Elementary School.

When Vega began his senior year of high school at Glendora High School in 2011, he was a well-liked student who competed in cross country.

“[Vega] was the kind of runner who didn’t have immediate talent, but he just kept on working and working,” said his coach Bob Ramsey. “His hard work led him to being one of our best runners.”

Vega competed in what turned out to be his last meet Sept. 24, 2011. Ramsey said the hardworking runner who normally pushed through the pain had become so ill and he could no longer practice. Shortly after, Vega was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

The outpouring of community support since his diagnosis seemed to grow throughout the year. While also stricken with the trauma of Vega’s illness, his family has struggled financially to pay for his mounting medical expenses.

His father, Anthony, lost his job in 2009. With no other net income besides Annie’s teaching salary, the family was forced to file bankruptcy.

As the family’s financial woes continued, Vega’s illness grew more severe. In April, Vega underwent a stem cell transplant at City of Hope.

Friends and family hosted blood drives and fundraisers in support of Vega and his family.

Ten-year-old Carson Alonzo, a fifth grader from Seller’s Elementary, raised $600 selling snow cones for the Chris Vega Fund.

“We are so proud of his heart and compassion to help a friend in need,” said Alonzo’s mother Kimberly Alonzo.

Glendora High School sports teams, including the GHS Football Boosters and the cross country team, raised thousands of dollars for the Chris Vega Fund.

Vega graduated from Glendora High School in June, and hoped to walk with his fellow classmates, but his health continued to decline.

Vega’s mother took a month off from work to be at her son’s bedside. His father maintained his new business A&A Supplies while both parents struggled to look after their children.

On Aug. 27, Vega was rushed to ICU with kidney failure and pneumonia.

On Monday, Vega lost his battle to leukemia with his family at his side. As news of Vega’s death spread throughout the community, people who had been following Vega’s story continued to show their support.

“Chris was the kind of person who stood out for his love for God and his love for country,” said former classmate Ryan Senneff during Tuesday’s candlelight vigil. “He was just a great person to have known.”

Friends and family are continuing to fundraise to help support the Vega family as they struggle to pay the staggering medical expenses, mortgage payments, and now, Vega’s funeral expenses.

The Marino Foundation, a fully registered 501(3)C organization, is aiming to raise $100,000 in 30 days to help support the Vega family during this time. All donations must be made as a check to The Marino Foundation and earmarked for “The Vega Family.” Each donation will receive a receipt for tax purposes.

Donations can be mailed to:

Tom Marino, President
The Marino Foundation
10671 Civic Center Drive
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730

For more information on the fundraiser, call (909) 476-0343 Ext 101 or e-mail tmarino@gear-tech.com.

Anthony Prince September 19, 2012 at 01:48 PM
As someone who worked behind the scenes on organizing this event, I think the 300 number seems off. 800 candles were distributed to those in attendance before we ran out. We do want to thank the Patch for spending the evening with us and for covering this event so that a wider audience can hear of Chris' story. Though Chris' battle with leukemia has ended, his family's battle with paying his medical expenses looms large on the horizon. Any support we can rally for the Vegas at this time is appreciated. Thanks, Ap Anthony Prince Children & Family Ministry Glenkirk Church
Steve September 19, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Nearly 300? I think your estimate is quite low. 800 candles were handed out and many people did not receive one. The estimate I've heard is closer to 1000. Our prayers go out to the Vega family. May we choose to act in love to support our community in tangible ways.
Hazel Lodevico-To'o (Editor) September 19, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Hello Anthony and Steve, after updating the number with vigil organizers, I have updated the attendee figure. Thank you.
EZDuzit September 19, 2012 at 08:13 PM
This entire story is just so sad and tragic. I can't even imagine how Chris's family is coping. For what it is worth, my prayers are with them and I will be happy to donate to their cause. It's times like this when it's encouraging to see a community rally. . I really hope that some day soon we can stop all cancer. It just takes too many good people.
Jennifer James September 19, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Christopher and his family were very special to both the City of Glendora and City of Hope - in Christopher's honor there will be a blood drive tomorrow, Thursday September 20th at LAFitness located at 820 S. Grand Avenue (corner of Grand Avenue and Moana Loa Avenue) from 1:30 - 7:30 pm - this drive will benefit the Pediatric Department at City of Hope - if you are able to donate please contact our donor center at 626/471-7171 or book online idonateblood4hope.org
Mikey's Mom September 21, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Heart breaking, as a mom of a young man I can only say I am so sorry you have had to endure this. Please continue to rally around the Vega family and help to support. Your donations, no matter what the amount, even one dollar from each person that reads this article, will make a difference.
Julie Pielaat September 22, 2012 at 03:17 PM
My son is a freshman at GHS. He did not know Chris, but came home from school and told me that The GHS Torch was lit because Chris had died. I read the Glendora Patch article aloud to my son. He was impressed that the GHS Track Coach said that Chris put out so much effort to become a good runner on the track team. It warmed our hearts that Chris's friend Ryan said that Chris stood out for God and our country. I know that these comments about Chris inspired my 15 year old son to realize what is truly important in life. Well done, Chris...enjoy eternal peace and joy in God's Kingdom. Wyatt's Mom
Leslie M. Riley September 22, 2012 at 05:30 PM
My son Kevin is a junior at GHS and a leukemia survivor who underwent 3.5 years chemo. This sad news brings up so many emotions for us. Of course we are grateful to have our son, but the fear of relapse is a constant shadow. Most of all we are so sad that this disease is still taking young lives and devastating families. We intend to participate in any capacity we can in any events scheduled to ease this family's pain and burden. We know that Chris is free from pain and worry and know that he wants healing for his family. I pray that God gives this community the wisdom and heart to find ways to facilitate that healing.
Frances September 27, 2012 at 11:02 PM
50/50 2012 tomorrow night, Friday, September 28, football game at Citrus College. The GHS Football Boosters are donating their share of the night's 50/50 money to the Vega Family.
Becca Reilly September 28, 2012 at 08:06 PM
I love Glendora. I lived there for years back in the 1980s. The people are the BEST. I miss Glendora but we go back often for the concerts in the park. RIP Chris, you are in HIS hands now. Prayers to the family.

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