IF YOU GO
What: Benefit concert for Gabriella Gonzales and the Brotherhood of Love.
When: Thursday, July 3, 4 p.m. until the fireworks display is over.
Where: Heights Middle School football field, 3700 College Blvd, Farmington.
At 5 p.m., a motorcycle run will depart for the concert from Great Western Barber Shop, 222 W Broadway, Bloomfield.
Cost: Donations accepted at the door
FARMINGTON — When John "Gordo" Ortiz was in remission from the cancer that eventually took his life at 51 years of age, he turned his energy to helping others in need.
Before Ortiz died last November from stage 4 lung cancer, he organized a concert to benefit Justin Solomon, a Piedra Vista High School graduate with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
This year, the Brotherhood of Love, an organization Ortiz co-founded, is holding a second concert fundraiser to benefit Gabriella Gonzales, an 8-year-old Farmington girl who has the same type of leukemia.
The event starts Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Heights Middle School football field with local bands, vendors and activities for children before attendees take in the city's fireworks display at dusk. It is part of Freedom Days and will include a motorcycle run at 5 p.m. that will depart for the concert from the Great Western Barber Shop in Bloomfield where Ortiz cut hair for two decades.
The concert at Heights is a new addition to Freedom Days. Local bands Boomtown, Cool Tones and Living Door will perform.
For Jennifer Gonzales, Gabriella's mother, the event is a chance to raise awareness of leukemia and celebrate Gabriella's improved health. She'll be sitting at a booth at the middle school Thursday on behalf of Be The Match, part of the National Marrow Donor Program, a marrow registry. She said she will hand out free swab kits to register people for the registry and raise awareness about leukemia.
"Gabriella is doing awesome," Jennifer Gonzales said on Monday. "She's in remission. We still take trips to Children's Hospital in Albuquerque two or three times each month, but things are a lot better. We're so grateful for that."
Gabriella, who hopes to attend the concert if she's cleared to go by her doctor, is looking forward to jumping around in a bounce house and eating cotton candy at the event.
"Before she was diagnosed in April of last year, she was never sick," Jennifer Gonzales said. "There were symptoms, but no definite indicators. But then she started to get super tired, have high fevers, feeling cold all the time, and I knew something wasn't right. It's not hereditary. It's just one of those things. One cell went bad."
Gabriella was finishing up the first grade at Northeast Elementary then. Chemotherapy and treatment kept her out of school the entire year, except for a handful of visits on a few occasions to see her friends and teachers she missed.
"All of it, it's a big huge life-changer, but Gabriella is strong and feeling better now," Jennifer Gonzales said. "It's a lot of stress, going back and forth to Albuquerque. She's a champ and takes it all in stride, but like anybody, she has her moments. One time she was playing with her friends and it was time to go, and she cried half the way to Albuquerque. She knows way more than an 8-year-old should know."
Donnie Gonzales, who is no relation to Gabriella and her mom, was best friends with Ortiz since childhood and has helped organize the Thursday event.
"John was my best friend. When he got cancer he wanted to help out others who have cancer," Donnie Gonzales said. "He was a barber and rodeo announcer, a man of diverse talents and an incredible guy. John started the brotherhood of love when he got cancer. People should know — this is for Gabriella, but its also in memory of John. There's going to be a lot of stuff for the kids to do there — and to take in the city's fireworks. John would like that."James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.