Kids with cancer learn Raider fans may not be so mean, after all

DOWNEY – What could bring more Christmas cheer than a visit from the Violator?

At least he brought his buddy Raider Clause.

Those were just a few of the scary characters at a gigantic benefit party Friday at St. Raymond Catholic Church for kids hospitalized with cancer.

The idea for the bash was hatched by Elias Gonzales, 7, and members of a few charitable clubs associated with the Raider Nation.

Elias, who lives in Whittier, has had a rough year, to say the least. Doctors in May diagnosed him with Leukemia, and, due to complications from chemotherapy, the little boy ended up having to use a colostomy bag for most the year. He also spent six days in a coma.

So a group of local Raider fans, who heard about Elias through facebook, decided to get together to do something.

But the 7-year-old didn’t want a party for just himself. He wanted every kid from the oncology floor at Children’s Hospital  of Orange County to get something special.

“I took him some signed memorabilia when he was in the hospital,” said Joey Martinez of the Silver and Black Angel Foundation. “He said he loves getting all the attention but he wanted to know if I could help all the other kids at CHOC as well.”

Friday’s party was hosted by the Silver and Black Angel Foundation and the Raider Nation For Life Car Club. The clubs have been working together for years to raise money to fight cancer after their leaders lost loved ones to the disease. Although the clubs are not officially associated with the Raiders, the Raiders NFL team has made donations to the clubs throughout the last four years, Martinez said.

At Friday’s party, Martinez and the other leaders of the clubs brought dinner, presents, and special guests, including several scary looking individuals. Even the Violator, with his painted face and spiky shoulder pads, showed up to shake hands and pose for photographs.

Dodger rookie shortstop Justin Sellers also showed up to take pictures with the children.

Many of the children at the party wore surgical masks. Several were in wheelchairs or missing limbs. But none of them wore a frown. They pigged out, got their faces painted and hob-nobbed with some of Los Angeles’ most demure citizens.

Elias’ mother, Andrea Gonzales, said the Raider Nation has been a source of support since life got turned upside down for her family.

Elias was in the middle of his PONY baseball season in late April when he started feeling a little strange.

“My stomach hurt and I started turning yellow,” he said.

Days later, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. A few weeks after that, Elias went into septic shock and was in a coma for six days. The chemotherapy had damaged his colon. Doctors warned his parents that he might die and was the “sickest kid in the hospital.”

He pulled through, but his colon was so damaged, he ended up having to use a colostomy bag.

Elias’ parents, Andrea and Eric Gonzales, wondered how Elias would react when he found out.

“He said, ‘Great! I don’t even have to stop to poop when I’m playing video games,’” Andrea Gonzales said.

Elias constantly makes jokes about his trials, and his room at CHOC is always the loudest, his mother said.

His bag was finally removed earlier this month.

Elias will likely undergo years of chemotherapy. If that doesn’t work, he could need a bone marrow transplant, his mother said.

The Gonzaleses said the disease has them reconsidering the way they look at life.

“There’s definitely a greater purpose,” Andrea Gonzales said.  “It’s totally changed my view of the world. I can’t be cynical anymore. There are so many good people out there.”

She and her husband Eric attend Whittier Area Community Church, and they said they trust God will work things out for Elias and their family.

“When I see how happy he is through all this, it makes me want to cry,” she said.  “I think God has a plan for him, to use all this somehow.”

And those Rowdy Raider fans?

Andrea didn’t want to ruin the Raider fans’ reputation, so she coyly said they may not be as mean as they let on.

“All those things you hear?” she said. “Exne on the adbe, if you know what I’m saying.”

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