A Clovis gym is hosting a blood drive this week in honor of a Buchanan High School athlete who was diagnosed with leukemia about two weeks ago, on his 18th birthday.
The blood drive, at 2 p.m. Friday at Nemesis Sports Academy, will honor Rocky Reyes, who played football, soccer and baseball for the Buchanan Bears. The drive is the fourth held in Rocky’s name this week and comes amid a widespread blood supply shortage.
“This is just one of the ways we feel that we can help out,” said Nemesis owner Richard Lazaro, a family friend who has trained Rocky for four years. “With the big turnout that we’re hoping to get, not only can we help Rocky, but we can help others as well.”
Rocky, the third of four Reyes children, had long been a dedicated athlete and a “clean eater” who always ate vegetables and salad with his meals, according to his father, Dr. JoJo Reyes. Yet his health had suffered recently, and he’d been diagnosed with mono six weeks before he learned he had leukemia.
Rocky was supposed to be graduating from Buchanan this week and preparing to study biology this fall at the University of Arizona. He had been selected to play kicker in the City/County All-Star Football Game on June 17, and had trained for the event just two days before receiving his diagnosis.
Instead, Rocky spent graduation day at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera. In a moment of happiness, he donned his mortar board cap and posed for a picture with some nurses, his dad said. That evening, Rocky and his family watched his classmates receive their diplomas on a big-screen television that had been wheeled into his hospital room.
He is expected to spend up to four weeks at Children’s Hospital, according to Reyes. Once discharged, he’ll likely get chemotherapy on a weekly basis for eight months and then monthly for a while after that, Reyes said.
His plans to become an Arizona Wildcat, meanwhile, are “on hold,” Reyes said.
“Cancer is a pretty nasty thing,” Reyes said. He said his son spent his first week in the hospital fighting for his life and said the treatment journey is just now beginning, adding, “I think he’s in the starting box and we haven’t even started the race yet.”
Yet Reyes is optimistic. In a blog documenting Rocky’s illness, he posts pictures of “Rocky’s Win Board,” on which people have used dry-erase markers to scrawl messages like, “10 min walk!” and “healthier appetite.”
“He’s a fighter and he’s fighting hard,” Reyes said.
Reyes said he has been moved by the community’s support for the family — and for people’s response to the need for blood.
“He’s the kid that you want on your team,” Reyes said of his son. “He’s the kid that you want in your class. He’s the kid that you want to be part of your family. He’s just that guy.”
Reyes said his son is humble and wasn’t seeking this sort of attention but, “people are outpouring for him because they love him.”
The blood drive is scheduled for Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Nemesis Sports Academy, located at 221 N. Minnewawa Ave. in Clovis. It’s open to the public.