Community rallies to support teen battling cancer

Sara Willis of Purcellville, pictured here from 2016, is currently in Fairfax Hospital on a ventilator for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, which was caused by her cancer treatment. The community has two events planned this month to help her family with costs associated with her treatment. 

Four years ago, Purcellville resident Sara Willis was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 14. After receiving chemotherapy and radiation, doctors told Willis she was in remission in 2015.

However, health issues persisted over the past few years, and in May the cancer returned -- this time on her optic nerve -- and it took her eyesight in her right eye.

Despite the major setback, Willis's sense of humor and determination to fight cancer has never quit, and she suggested that the community Facebook page they use to provide updates be renamed as “Pray for One Eyed Willy.”

Willis's parents, Jimmy and Angie, as well as her sisters and friends, have been by her side through each treatment. This past summer, she received an aggressive and high dose of chemotherapy and stem cell transplants to fight the cancer relapse.

This fall, the treatment has taken its toll on Willis's body, and she has been in intensive care in the hospital.

Earlier this week, she was on a ventilator and suffered acute respiratory distress syndrome, which was caused by her cancer treatment.

The community is rallying to support the Willis family, which is facing extensive medical expenses. Family members have had to take leave from work to be by Willis's side.

The first event is Nov. 13 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Ashburn Pub and 44110 Ashburn Village Shopping Plaza. Event organizers Roxce Castillo and Lucia Alami heard about Sara's story and wanted to help the local family in need.

“I noticed on social media everything Sara was going through and wanted to do something to help. We reached out to Kevin at Ashburn Pub, and he gave us a date and we quickly posted it. The response has been great so far, and a lot of businesses are donating items,” Castillo said.

They are gathering donations for a silent auction and raffle and 10 percent of the entire day's food sales will be donated to the cause.

“It's terrible she is going through this. Being a mom myself I understand. This is not fair. We are getting a lot of support from the community for this event and every little bit will help this family,” Castillo said.

In addition to the event at The Ashburn Pub, there will be a chili dinner and basket raffle on Nov. 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Carver Center in Purcellville. Event organizers are currently asking for donations and volunteers. There is a link to sign up to help on Willis's "Pray for One Eyed Willy" page on Facebook.

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