Thirteen-year-old Michael Vargas watched his mother, Laura Vargas endure one chemotherapy treatment after another to combat breast cancer. He decided that he not only wanted to do something to lift her spirits, but to do something positive for all cancer patients in his community. Thus was born Stellar, a mean, lean, cancer fighting machine. Fully decked out in armor and a radiation gun as an arm, Michael created a robot design to help his mother tackle cancer.
Not only did Michael’s design inspire his mother, but it inspired the community. Angel Medical Center teamed up with the Vargas to create shirts sporting Stellar that could be sold with profits going to benefit AMC’s new cancer center.
When local business owner Charlotte Crawford heard about Michael’s creativity, she wanted to help. Charlotte, who owns Willy’s Bar-B-Que on Cunningham Road in Franklin, teamed up with the Vargas’ and AMC to host a fundraiser in honor of Laura Vargas and Vickie Wooten, with proceeds from the night benefitting the cancer center. “I think what Michael wanted to do was just wonderful and we wanted to do anything we could to help spread awareness,” said Crawford. “And I want to thank Laura and Vickie for letting us do this in their honor."
When March 21 rolled around, everyone was surprised by the turnout.
“I was very touched by the number of friends and community members that came to help or support the benefit,” said Laura.
“I think breast cancer touches almost everyone's life. Supporting events like this makes people feel like there is something they can do about it.”
Willy’s Bar-B-Que fed about 200 people in the restaurant and had about 100 take out orders that Friday night, with 40 percent of the profits going straight to AMC. In addition to money from the food being donated, all of the wait staff and employees at Willy’s donated every penny of the tips that they earned, as well as worked the night free of charge, donating their time.
“I want to thank everyone in the community that came out to support Willy’s and the Angel Medical Center cancer center,” said Crawford. “I am just so surprised by what a great turnout we had. I also want to thank all the staff who volunteered their time and tips to the event as well.”
Angel Medical Center staff pitched in to help refill drinks and clean the tables for the guests.
Factoring in the Stellar shirts that had been preordered by members of the community, and bake sale items from that Friday night, the entire event raised $3,279 for the cancer center.
“The desire for Willy’s BBQ to help raise funding for the new outpatient services/ cancer treatment center and the outpouring of support by the community for this fundraiser was overwhelming,” said Angel Medical Center Foundation Director Don Capaforte. “The event was tremendously successful and we are very grateful to Willy’s BBQ and the community for recognizing how important this new outpatient services/ cancer treatment center is to the healthcare of our community.”
Michael, a soft spoken teenager, was a little surprised by the attention his design has garnered but was excited to see the support it has received. “I think it's great that my design raised awareness in Franklin and that people came to the benefit,” he said.
Angel Medical Center’s outpatient services building is scheduled to open around the end of May or early June. “Most of the work taking place is on the inside putting the finishing touches on everything,” said Capaforte. “There are plenty of opportunities to support the building and many naming opportunities are available.”
Contact Don Capaforte at the Angel Foundation office at (828)349-6887 for more information.