BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
This week the Kern County Cancer Fund and its supporters celebrated the news that the young charity will begin its work with more than $1 million in the bank to help local cancer patients with their insurance expenses and other costs.
But the revelation was accompanied by the sober news that the cancer fund's first beneficiary died Wednesday.
Michael Dallas, a former professional boxer and coach for the Bakersfield Police Activities League, was battling leukemia and died just four days after the Fight for Life fundraiser that brought in more than half a million dollars for the cancer fund.
News of Dallas' death spread Thursday, the same day that the tally came in for the flashy fundraiser hosted by Advanced Industrial Services.
The fundraiser that combines mixed martial arts fighting, musical performances and an array of entertainment raked in $632,000. The Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center has pledged to match the event's proceeds up to $1 million, bringing the current total of funds raised to nearly $1.3 million.
"We were very happy with it," said Robert Rice, AIS spokesman. "We could have raised more but it was an absolutely great event."
About 3,000 people attended the event and Rice expressed gratitude to the community partners and the many volunteers who made it happen. He said clean-up from the big bash was still under way Friday.
AIS will keep collecting money toward its goal of raising $1 million through Dec. 31.
"The need's here, we're here, we want to help people here," Rice said.
Dr. Ravi Patel, CBCC's managing partner and medical director, said he hopes people will chip in to help the fund meet its $2 million goal. He said he's extremely grateful to AIS for all the work they put into the event.
"We couldn't have had a better jump start (for the fund)," he said.
Rice also expressed condolences for Dallas' family, and organizers said his death highlights the need for the fund.
"It's very critical that people get this funding at a crucial point in their life," Patel said.
Michael Dallas Jr. said his father went into Kern Medical Center Sunday night because he was having trouble breathing. Dallas had proposed to his girlfriend the day before he went into the hospital.
He had an infection and stopped breathing twice and was put on a ventilator, Michael Dallas Jr. said.
The third time Dallas stopped breathing, he'd couldn't be brought back, his son said.
"Everything just gave up on him," Michael Dallas Jr. said.
Though Dallas had been fighting cancer since the spring, his death came as a shock since his health appeared to be improving. Sitting in his living room on Nov. 9, the day before the Fight for Life fundraiser, the 45-year-old said he felt better, like he was "almost back to normal."
He'd recently received good news. The cancer fund's Patient Eligibility committee decided to give Dallas more than $1,000 a month for six months to help cover his cost of share for Medi-Cal.
Sgt. Chad Jackman, BPAL's executive director, said that even when Dallas was at his thinnest and weakest during chemotherapy, he never lost his spark and always made Jackman feel like he was going to come out on top of cancer.
"I thought that this was going to be another fight that Mike was going to win," Jackman said Friday. "I thought he was on the comeback trail. We'd even talked about him coming back to work."
Dallas made BPAL a family; he was the pied piper that brought the neighborhood kids into the program, Jackman said.
Jackman said the hardest task of his life came Thursday when he had to tell about 100 kids that Dallas wouldn't be coming back to BPAL.
"He will be very, very missed here," Jackman said.
Michael Dallas Jr. asked that people remember his father's contributions to the community and "the father figure he was for everybody."