December 15, 2013

Goodfellows: 30-year-old father with cancer is too ill to work

Joseph could provide for his wife and three sons until cancer was diagnosed. Now he needs help with Christmas gifts.

He was a former Marine Corps corporal working as a contractor at General Motors.

His wife was a stay-at-home mom, taking care of their three sons, ages 8, 6 and 4.

And his kids were just kids, focused on Spider-Man, SpongeBob SquarePants and Ninja Turtles. Until September.

That’s when 30-year-old Joseph of Arlington was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Stage 4.

“I got a call early one morning that woke me up,” he said. “My doctor told me I had cancer.”

That’s when their lives turned upside down.

Joseph started chemotherapy and soon became too ill to work. He and his wife, Brandy, 27, have applied for Social Security disability payments, which they were told could take 120 days to get approved. They applied for assistance through Tarrant County, which they said helped them pay one month of electricity, water and rent. And they just got approved for food stamps.

“I’ve always been able to provide for my family. Now, with this, I can’t even work,” Joseph said.

And with Christmas quickly approaching, that’s one more worry — no presents for their kids.

“I want them to have a really good Christmas,” Brandy said, crying. “But we can’t give our kids a Christmas because there’s no income coming in. I do think they understand. We sat them down and told them Dad is sick with cancer. They just don’t understand how serious it is.”

That’s why Joseph said he decided to apply to the Star-Telegram’s Goodfellow Fund this year.

“Before this happened, my kids always had a good holiday,” he said. “I’d like the Goodfellow Fund to help me provide for my kids this Christmas. That’s something I can’t do right now.”

The boys need clothes. One son doesn’t have a big jacket, and another is too tall for his jeans.

But regardless of what Joseph and Brandy have under the Christmas tree for their boys this year, Joseph said his Christmas wish has already come true.

“My first wish was just to be here with them. And I got that,” he said. “Now I just want my kids to have a good Christmas, too.”

It was children like Joseph’s that Star-Telegram editors were thinking of back in 1912 when they introduced the idea of a “Good Fellows’ Club” — “to spread Christmas cheer among the little boys and girls,” according to editorials at the time.

Readers supported the program that first year by donating $1,242.80, which provided 350 families with a turkey, bread, fruit and canned vegetables, a few toys, and a load of wood or coal.

The program’s name has changed slightly, and the gifts have changed with the times. Nevertheless, the goal remains the same.

Last year, the Goodfellow Fund gave $50 J.C. Penney gift cards to 19,470 children. The cards can be spent only for clothing or shoes. The goal is the same this year.

While you’re thinking of Christmas gifts this week, please consider sending a few dollars to Goodfellows so the children of your less-fortunate neighbors may have a few gifts, too.

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