Contributed Photo/Courtesy Gina Trujillo: Bradley Villalba, 2, recovers in this picture from having his eye removed due to cancer. The Friday Night Lights event looks to help pay for his prosthetic eye.
By Jon Johnson
THATCHER – The community is invited to come out for some serious flag football action and delicious food at the annual Jett’s Friday Night Lights event at Eastern Arizona College’s John T. Mickelson Field Friday, April 13, starting at 6 p.m.
In addition to the football action, there will be barbecue dinners available for $10 per person, $45 per family and $5 for EAC students. A dessert auction will also take place starting at 7:30 p.m. But if you want to make sure to get your desired desert without being big up by anyone, there is a $50 pick anything option prior to the auction, starting at 7 p.m.
The event is presented by EAC’s Ribbon Club as its annual fundraiser to help those afflicted with a serious disease and was initially began to help out Jett Skousen with his medical bills regarding his affliction of muscular dystrophy.
According to Ribbon Club representative Patti Guerrero-Wren, about three years ago the Skousens said they were in a better place financially and could take care of their medical expenses themselves. They then graciously suggested the event be used to help other families.
Keeping the name in honor of Jett and having him as an honorary captain of one side, the club began helping a different child each year. This year’s event will benefit Bradley Villalba, who at 2-years-old has lost his right eye to cancer.
Bradley was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, which is a rare form of eye cancer that begins in a person’s retina. It is more often found in children than adults and can occur in one or both eyes. According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition occurs when nerve cells in the retina develop genetic mutations, which grow and spread as healthy cells die.
“He just happened to be one of the 300 who get it every year,” Bradley’s aunt, Gina Trujillo previously told the Gila Herald. “He’s a little guy, but for being so young, he’s adapting pretty good. He’s bouncing back a lot better than we hoped for.”
After the cancer discovery, Bradley had his right eye removed at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The medical professionals reported the cancer was contained to the right eye, but Bradley still had weekly follow-ups at the hospital to make sure it didn’t spread and to check on the healing process.
The goal of the event is to raise $4,000 to help pay for Bradley’s prosthetic eye, which, according to Wren, he has been undergoing fitting all week. Wren said an impression of Bradley’s eye was created earlier this week and that the entire process takes about five days. One of the last portions of the process has Bradley sitting on the lap of an artist for roughly three hours as the artist paints the prosthetic eye to a perfect match.
So come out to EAC’s John T. Mickelson Field on Friday, April 13 to see some competitive flag football. Cheer on your favorite teams while indulging in some delicious food and desserts, all for a good cause to help a little boy in his battle.