Citizen Staff Writer
When 12-year-old Alan Villaseñor took to the school stage Friday to help a family battling cancer, his dad was right there with him.
Alan lost his father – 42-year-old Tucson chemist Agustin Villaseñor – to brain cancer last July.
Now, in honor of his dad, the Tucson boy is helping other families in their fight against the disease.
Alan presented fellow La Cima Middle School student Kimberly Nguyen and her parents with a check for $800. The 11-year-old’s father – Long Nguyen, 47 – is battling cancer in his brain, lungs, liver and pancreas.
“They’re down to their last 40 bucks right now,” Alan told his peers and teachers at an assembly at La Cima, 5600 N. La Cañada Drive.
Alan hoped the family could use the money for medicine, food and other expenses.
“I hope it helps you guys a lot,” he told the Nguyens.
Eunice Nguyen, 40, wiped away tears after she and her husband stepped down from the stage after accepting the check.
She said her family, which also has two children in high school, will use the money to make a house payment and for other expenses.
“I can’t believe this happened,” she said. “It’s doesn’t seem real.”
“It’s so good,” said her husband, a refugee from Vietnam who worked as a cook in a Chinese restaurant before becoming ill last year.
Principal Gail Gault said Alan’s kindness “epitomizes what La Cima students are all about.”
“Alan has done an amazing thing,” she said. “You hear all the bad stories about youth. This is a good thing.”
Alan got the idea for starting the fund in a class that helps students prepare for college. He was inspired to get involved in community service. He wanted to honor his dad while helping families of cancer patients who are struggling financially.
He recalls overhearing his mom’s worries about coming up with $2,000 needed for chemotherapy treatments.
Alan started the nonprofit Agustin Villaseñor Memorial Cancer Fund.
He has sold about 500 colorful “Knock Out Cancer” rubber wrist bands for $2 each. He sent e-mails to local businesses and received donations from Jim Click, Dobbs Honda and Casino Del Sol.
He plans to award a check to another family soon.
Alan said he felt his dad’s presence alongside him onstage as he made the award to the Nguyens.
“He was a good dad,” Alan said. “He was always helpful and funny. He would help me with my math homework.”
Seven-year-old Adel Villaseñor recalled how their dad – who emigrated from Cananea, Son. – would tickle them with his giant mustache.
Their dad managed to stay upbeat during his illness. Alan recalled, “He acted like everything was fine when it was a living hell for us.
“I’m just happy and excited that I can help another family,” said Alan, who dreams of becoming a graphic designer.
Patricia Villaseñor, 42, is proud of her son. She says she knows her husband is proud, too.
“He’s always with us,” she said of Agustin, wiping away tears.
‘Alan has done an amazing thing. You hear all the bad stories about youth. This is a good thing.’
principal of La Cima Middle School