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Publisher’s Notebook—Barona’s gift exudes community spirit

as this one-liner: “A wish changes nothing. A decision changes everything.”

A decision by the management of Barona Casino changed the entire life of a Lakeside woman.

Brandy Balke Favor, a former Barona employee, had the beginnings of a good life. She won the title of Miss Lakeside in 1998. She married her sweetheart, a young Navy man, and was expecting their first child.

Then disaster struck.

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She began feeling badly and went to the doctor to find the cause of her illness. She was told that she had contracted uterine cancer.

Shortly after that, she miscarried and lost the baby. If that wasn’t bad enough, her husband, Cody, injured his back in 1998 and was being discharged from the Navy.

All the trauma from the miscarriage, uterine cancer and chemotherapy was topped off with the loss of her health benefits when her husband was discharged.

The lapse in her health coverage came at a time when the chemotherapy needed to be more extensive.

As radio newsman Paul Harvey says every day, “And now the rest of the story.”

Community members, upon learning of Brandy’s plight, quickly organized a fund-raiser to help pay for her treatments. Jill Ogilvie, director of the Miss Lakeside pageant said, “At midnight when the coverage was halted by the Navy, the community will take care of this child of ours.”

And take care they did.

On Sept. 15, an event featuring a chili cookoff, car show, crafts vendors, a silent auction and live music raised money for Brandy’s care. Organizers prepared to give all the proceeds to a fund to support her care. Ogilvie indicated donations have come in from around the county since the story came to light.

The Lakeside Chamber of Commerce notified the management of Barona Casino of the fund-raiser, and the casino immediately provided a check for $5,000 to cover current expenses.

Other local residents have also stepped up to offer aid. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, is pushing the Navy to extend Cody for at least six months in order to offer health care coverage for Brandy.

After the casino management presented the $5,000 check for Brandy’s current medical expenses, they began asking themselves, what about her future medical expenses?

So management made another visit to Brandy and presented her with another check , a blank check!

A blank check that will pay for all of Brandy’s chemotherapy not covered by her insurance, no matter how long it takes or what amount it adds up to!

The Barona comment was simply, “Once someone is a part of our family, they are always a part of our family.”

I’d say that the Native American culture is different than most of us have ever experienced. Their desire to share with others everything they have continues to amaze me. Brandy has had major changes in her life, but now with the help of the community and the big hearts at Barona, Brandy just might be on her way toward recovery.

Credit: To the staff of the San Diego Zoological Society for determination and dedication to get the expansion project accepted by the community. They have brought together 40 representatives to put together more than a zoo expansion. It will be a bringing together of all the organizations and the community to solve parking issues, adding more green space and upgrading the finest zoo in the universe. Doug Myers and his team deserve the perseverance award for not trying to ram the project down the throats of the community.

Credit: To Taylor Crabtree, a fifth-grader from Vista who started a nonprofit group to distribute teddy bears to sick children. Taylor has been selected by direct-mail clothing distributor Lands’ End Direct Merchants as one of three “Born Heroes.” She was put on the cover of Lands’ End’s fall catalog and donated $5,000 to her organization. Taylor has given more than 7,000 toys in the last three years to sick children. She keeps computer records, makes deposits of donations, writes checks and keeps her account balanced, all necessary skills for her future business ventures. Congratulations to Taylor for being a fifth-grader with a passion for others.

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