By Ted Jorden
When Carolyn Cedillo began to experience occasional lapses
in memory, she dismissed it as a sign of advancing age.
But the memory failures became more frequent and she developed
other physical problems, including dropping things. She
grew unresponsive when spoken to and developed difficulties
with her speech. Her husband Cid took her to see their
family physician who admitted her into the hospital. She
was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Worse, the tumor was
malignant. Doctors told the family that radiation therapy
was all that could be done, and they should take her home.
family immediately sought other doctors and hospitals better
equipped to fight this malignancy. The University of Texas
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston agreed to see Carolyn
Cedillo and confirmed the original diagnosis. But where
previous doctors offered little hope, doctors at M.D. Anderson
suggested an aggressive course of innovative cancer treatments.
Surgery was performed, and 90 percent of the tumor removed.
Then came an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy combined
with radiation treatments. The treatment continued for
several months, but afterward the prognosis was good.
not long after, her husband Ramiro “Cid” Cedillo
began to experience difficulties of his own—symptoms
eerily similar to those his wife had experienced: speech
interruptions and memory lapses. At first he, too, dismissed
his troubles, but the family insisted that there was more
to it. Growing concern led them to the emergency room at
the Alexandria, Louisiana, VA Medical Center, where the medical
staff agreed to do more testing. A CT scan was performed,
and Cid Cedillo was sent to the Regional VA Hospital in Shreveport
for more tests while he awaited the results of the scan.
too, was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
With both husband and
wife struggling with serious medical conditions and mountains
of associated bills, VVA’s
Ville Platte, Louisiana, Chapter 632 resolved to do everything
possible to help. Cid Cedillo, a Vietnam veteran, was a small-business
owner with no major medical coverage. His wife’s bills
were only partially covered by a small insurance policy.
we called VVA’s Vietnam Veterans Assistance
Fund. But we were told that VVAF does not provide assistance
to individual veterans.
The old adage says: Help comes to
those who help themselves. And, well, we did it ourselves:
Chapter 632 organized, advertised, promoted, and did the
things we needed to do to help our fellow VVA member. Even
without outside help, it was a huge success.
First, I called
on my fellow Chapter 632 members. Cid had been a founding
member of the chapter, an officer and board member, and a
dedicated and loyal supporter. We would not let him down.
The chapter acted quickly with an initial cash donation.
We then immediately got to work on planning a fundraising
With no time to lose, we approached other civic
organizations in our small town—the Knights of Columbus,
the Lions Club, and the Rotary Club—and asked them
to join us. Cid had been an active member in each of these
organizations, and they were eager to help. The Ville Platte
Gazette and the local radio station did all they could to
help publicize the event to be held at the Knights of Columbus
Tickets were printed and sales began. The local banks,
The Evangeline Bank & Trust, Citizens Bank of Ville Platte,
Guaranty Bank of Mamou, and the Hancock Bank sold tickets
at each of their branches and also established accounts for
donations to our benefit drive.
With our newspaper ads now
on doorsteps, and our urgent pleas broadcast on the radio
daily, tickets began to sell briskly. In a radio interview,
we outlined the seriousness of the situation. Scores of volunteers
came forward, offering to sell tickets, cook, serve food—in
general, to do anything we asked of them.
When the day arrived,
it became obvious that the Ville Platte Knights of Columbus
had their act together. Volunteers arrived before daybreak
and the barbeque pits needed to cook the two thousand steaks
were already alight. Later in the morning, when the fires
were just right, meat was brought from a nearby grocery store
and a local meat market. Meanwhile, the other food was being
prepared all over town: Baked beans simmered in the kitchen
of the Catholic elementary school. Potato salad—prepared
beforehand by VVA Chapter 632 members and stored at a local
restaurant—was delivered, along
with thirty-dozen deviled eggs. The Catholic Daughters, VVA
Chapter 632 Associates, and the Lions Club wives began boxing
up the lunches as the steaks came off the grills.
of Columbus had a system for taking drive-through orders,
serving food, and keeping an accurate count of plates sold.
By 10 a.m., the lunches were ready and people began to arrive.
The Knights of Columbus Hall is located on a busy highway,
so the Evangeline Parish Sheriffs’ Department
provided traffic control. Those deputies were needed because
traffic was soon backed up for half a mile.
What a sight:
carloads of old friends, coworkers, neighbors, and strangers
stretched into the distance. Some parked their cars and walked
up to purchase meals. Many paid $20 for their meal—well
above the modest $7 asking price. One even paid $100 for
two lunches, insisting we keep the change. By 2 p.m., everything
was sold. The sides were the first to run out. With no baked
beans or potato salad left, we simply doubled up on steaks
and tossed in extra bread. Our last customer arrived at 2:28
p.m. with an order for ten lunches—he had been out
of town and had gotten delayed.
We scrambled to give him
all the meat we had left: five big lunches and bread. He
was okay with the deal.
The benefit for Cid and Carolyn Cedillo
was a huge success, and not just monetarily. The entire community
turned out to express its concern and support for a local
couple who needed our help. This outpouring of love, generosity,
and support brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat.
I am so very proud of our little rural Louisiana community.
lesson learned? There is no substitute for dogged determination.
Despite our initial frustration when seeking outside funding,
our determination saw us through. We learned that a resolute
local chapter can be a very effective fundraiser. We encouraged
the cooperation of others in our own community who shared
our desire to help, and with that help our local chapter
organized, promoted, and performed everything possible to
help our fellow VVA member in need. The benefit was a huge
success. And we did it ourselves.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Cid & Carolyn
Cedillo Benefit Fund should contact The Evangeline Bank and
Trust, 497 West Main St., Ville Platte, LA 70586. VVA Chapter
632’s Ted Jorden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org