“Cancer is a horrendous disease,” says Gerardo Loyola. “It beats you up mentally, physically, emotionally... It takes your youth away, and it takes your children.”
Millions of people in the United States alone are affected by cancer, and most have no help or hope of defeating this brutal disease. Loyola is trying to bring that hope and help back to those in need.
In memory of the passing of his son, Gerardo (Jerry Jr.) Javier Loyola, and with the help of others, he has created the Jerry Loyola Foundation and the “JL” Golf Challenge, which will take place on the 24th at Spring Hills Golf Course, to help those struggling with the every day problems that occur while fighting the disease.
“We call it quality of life support,” said Gerardo. “You never really think of how much goes into the fight against cancer. You have to pay for the treatment, pay for gas to get you there, pay for food, take time off work and then still make your bills. It’s tough to keep the same quality of life you had before, so we try and help.”
Loyola, now a retired history teacher, said he began teaching because he wanted to stay close the game of golf and to other sports. He has coached golf for 18 years at Watsonville high school and has also coached track and field for more than 20, but his heart is always on the golf course with his clubs.
Now retired, he has the opportunity to golf as much as he pleases, but even when he’s out on the links by himself he says he’s never alone.
“Whenever I’m golfing I’m always with him,” said Gerardo. “I know he’s out there with me.”
PUTTING UP A FIGHT
Jerry was on another level athletically. He was a standout in wrestling, cross country, and track and field, but his love, like his father, was golf.
He played four years at Watsonville High School and two at Cabrillo College. He qualified for Central Coast Section Golf Finals as a sophomore and he was the Outstanding Senior Golfer in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League in 2004. He had the best scoring average on the 2006 Cabrillo College golf team and he qualified for Northern California Junior College Golf Finals in 2006.
But in 2007 he contracted testicular cancer, and his fight began. He went through two chemotherapy sessions at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Santa Cruz in the early stages of his fight, but he was later transferred to Indiana University to Dr. Einhorn, who treated Lance Armstrong and was know as the guru in fighting testicular cancer.
Jerry went through four more sessions of chemotherapy in Indiana, and hopes were up that he and his family had finally defeated his disease.
Dr. Einhorn informed the Loyola family that he if Jerry went through a complete year in remission then he was going to beat it. Eight months later, it showed up and the fight was back on.
“When my son was really sick,” said Gerardo, “he asked, ‘what’s going to happen?’ I just told him, ‘I don’t know. I just hope that we can beat the odds. I hope that we can find the right treatment. I just hope that we could beat it.”
Jerry’s cancer had metastasized into his body, and even after going through two final sessions of chemotherapy the doctors could not find a cure. He died on October 6, 2009. He was 24-years-old.
“It was one that they had never defeated,” said Gerardo. “Once it had got to that point. He was tough. He never gave up. He was this awesome kid, beautiful young man and a hell of a golfer.”
After Jerry’s passing Gerardo was unable to play golf, the game that him and his father shared, for three weeks, not because he couldn’t, but because there was a rift where his son once was. Eventually the people at Spring Hills, where Jerry worked while attending Cabrillo College, were able to convince him to come out and play the game he loved, and on the 15th hole of the Spring Hills Golf Course Gerardo hit a hole-in-one. He was using his son’s seven iron.
“It was awesome,” said Gerardo. “It was just an amazing moment. The whole group just dropped their clubs. Everyone was hugging and everyone was crying. We all said, “he’s here with us right now.”
But even before that sign, Gerardo and the Loyola family were committed to helping those in need.
A SIMPLE IDEA
The idea for the Jerry Loyola Foundation started with something as simple as movies and headphones.
During one of Jerry’s stay in Indiana Gerardo and his wife Maria, bought 30 DVD players, 30 headphones and donated more than 70 movies to patients that had little to nothing.
“When you’re getting treatment,” said Gerardo. “You just get hammered. You get hammered for four, five, six, eight hours sometimes, and you just have to take it. People were there and they didn’t have anything.
“You see the need in the clinics, and we’ll help whoever needs the help.”
It was apparent to the family that they were fortunate to have summers off so that they could make the trip with their son out to Indiana, yet others didn’t have that.
“We were fortunate in an unfortunate situation,” said Gerardo.
The family knew that they wanted to help even more, but they didn’t do it alone. They collaborated with lawyer Mark Myers to make the Jerry Loyola Foundation possible. Myers did all the paper work pro-bono.
Also, the foundation works through Carla Gomez who is part of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and helps find people in need of help to keep their quality of life. Whether it be gas cards, childcare, food or help with bills.
All the Loyola family asks in return is a simple letter, and Gerardo has kept the dozens of letters stashed away as a reminder that what he and his family is doing is touching people’s lives in some shape or form.
In the three years of existence the Jerry Loyola Foundation has given out over $30,000 to local families and research.
“We help families with everything they need,” said Gerardo. “We just never give up hope, and we don’t want others to give up hope.”
CONTINUING THE FIGHT
The Foundation’s biggest fundraiser is the upcoming JL Golf Challenge and the raffles that run along side it. There are many ways in which people can help and donate through the tournament including: entering in the challenge ($135), buying dinner tickets ($20), sponsoring a hole ($100) or even sponsoring a golfer ($135).
Also donations, small or large, can be made to the foundation at any time.
They also have the “That’s Sweet” and the “That’s All Bad” raffles, $10 and $25 respectively, that are named after sayings that Jerry used to belt out.
It’s just one of the many aspects of the tournament that has been modeled after Jerry.
To make enter the tournament, make a donation or for more information on the Jerry Loyola Foundation contact Gerardo Loyola at 831-247-0461 or find out more information at Spring Hills Golf Course.
“We felt that with our experience we could help,” said Gerardo. “My son never stopped fighting, and he never gave up. I had a lot of remorse. I had a lot of anger, but because of his attitude and his gentle heart, I never let it get to me. If he wasn’t going to be remorseful, I wasn’t going to be remorseful. I tell people that there’s a hole in my heart and I hurt. We miss him everyday, but we’re going to keep fighting it and this is the way we’re fighting it. We’re not going to let his memory fade or let anyone down.”
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