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Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 5:58pm

Jacksonville community supports boy battling cancer


POSTED: Sunday, July 27, 2014 - 10:47pm

UPDATED: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 10:40am

East Texans are famous for their friendly smiles and kind hearts. On Sunday, one smile captured many hearts in the Jacksonville community.  In March, Rafael Gonzalez and his wife received heartbreaking news. Their son, Eli, was diagnosed with leukemia.

"It's pretty devastating, said Gonzalez.

For the last few months, the family has remained positive. Four-year-old Eli has stayed strong.

"Everybody falls in love with just seeing his smile. He's very energetic," Gonzalez said about his son.

It has been a tough battle for the entire family.

"When you see your kid hurting, there's not much you can do but just hold him," said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez keeps family and friends updated on Eli's health through Facebook. One day a stranger saw one of these updates and wanted to help. It was Marty Lara, President of the car club, Tiempos Viejos.

"It's better to give than receive," said Lara.

Lara organized a car show to raise money for Eli, the little boy whose smile touched his heart. The car show raised over $1,600 for the family. The donation will be used for trips to Dallas where Eli receives chemotherapy treatment.

"No kid should suffer like that, so that's why we wanted to do that," said Lara.

Throughout the afternoon on Sunday, the community came together to show their support. There were many volunteers, including Wendy Rubio.

"Sometimes you think you're going through a tough time, but then you see a little kid who is battling for his life. It's really devastating. I mean, as soon as I saw the picture I fell in love with him," said Rubio.

Eli's older brother, Ethan, said he was thankful for the support.

"Just knowing these people came and care about him is amazing. I love it," said Ethan.

Gonzalez said he is thankful the community cares about his family.

"I'm just asking for prayers. That, to me, goes a lot further than money does," said Gonzalez.

Eli's smile is what first captured the hearts of the Jacksonville community. They hope to keep him smiling for years to come.

"He's just one of those kids you fall in love with because of his smile, and he's happy. He knows this is for him," said Gonzalez.

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