Bone marrow registry drives are planned up and down the valley for a 25-year-old California Army National Guard reservist whose unit is out of Bakersfield and who faces a grim medical prognosis.
Be the Match, a program by the National Marrow Donor Program that helps patients receive transplants, will be in Bakersfield Sunday to conduct a drive for Spc. Marcos Corona of Fresno, a young husband and father battling leukemia.
In addition, Houchin Community Blood Bank will host a blood drive all next week in Corona's honor at its Truxtun and Bolthouse Donor centers in Bakersfield.
Drives are also scheduled in Porterville and Fresno.
Corona desperately needs a donor, said his supervisor, Sgt. 1st Class Alfred Moreno. His siblings have already been ruled out as a match.
"The problem is, the doctors said they're not going to be able to keep (the leukemia) in remission," Moreno said. "They haven't given him a specific timeline, but they're putting it in terms of months."
He described Corona as a fun, upbeat guy who always volunteers to help others.
"As military soldiers, we are able to move thousands of personnel and equipment at a moment's notice," Moreno said in a moving letter to the community. "We help others when help is needed, and never question why. We act without concern for our own safety to preserve the safety of others. So to all past and present military personnel and to all emergency response personnel, I ask for your help for one of our own.
"To anyone who has a loved one who has suffered with this terrible disease or any other form of cancer, the battle continues to save lives and we need your help."
Moreno said Corona is a San Francisco Giants and Oakland Raiders fan, and pleaded for fellow fans to help, too.
He said people who can't attend one of the upcoming events can still help Corona by registering at the Be the Match Foundation website, marrow.org, or by donating money to the group.
Corona joined the California Army National Guard in April 2009 and he and his wife had their only child, Marcos Jr., in May 2011, according to a website dedicated to helping him find a bone marrow match.
A few months after the birth, it says, Corona was diagnosed with leukemia. In February 2012, doctors declared Corona in remission and he returned to full military duty. But last November, the cancer returned and Corona has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments, according to the website.
Doctors are concerned, the website says, because only 10 percent of the 9 million people registered as donors are Latino. That lack of Latino donors is something Moreno also hopes to highlight and address with these drives.
"Most times (when people get sick), we don't feel we can do anything," Moreno told The Californian. "This time, the community can do something."