Miles and Donna Willard, left, accept a cash donation from the owners of Hooch’s Kingman Grille, Cheryl and MikeThornton. (Photo by Emily Black)
KINGMAN — A Kingman girl with cancer got a new lease on life Sunday when Hooch’s Kingman Grille presented her family with a sizable donation for continued treatment.
Five-year-old Natalie Willard, of Kingman, has neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that starts in the nervous system and usually begins in children at a very young age. Natalie has battled the disease since she was two-years-old. The cancer is in her pancreas and she is currently undergoing treatment through an experimental trial in Michigan.
Natalie has been to quite a few hospitals in her five years. She originally received treatment at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. She then traveled to New York City for a year and a half and treatment teams there thought she was in remission.
The family went to Hawaii to celebrate, and in May of last year, she relapsed. “There was one cancer cell that had survived, and it began regenerating,” said Miles Willard, the child’s grandfather. “She got sick again and was having more symptoms.”
The family took her to New York City a second time and discovered that she was immune to all treatments. As a last resort, and after intense research, they found the Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. Dr. Giselle L. Saulnier Sholler is a doctor who treats children with relapsed neuroblastoma. “Dr. Sholler is the only one we know of who will treat her,” said Miles Willard.
Mike and Cheryl Thornton, the owners of Hooch’s Kingman Grille, have a fundraiser each month, and last month the focus was helping Natalie and her family. Cheryl Thornton said March was a very successful donation month. “Natalie’s month has been the biggest month in the last two years,” said Cheryl Thornton. “We raised a total of $5,262 for her. It’s just so important to give back to the community, so many people here need help.”
The funds had been raised through raffle items, 50/50 raffles and sizeable donations made by individuals and groups. The Desert Road Riders played a large role in helping raise funds for Natalie. Kingman resident Monty Phlew donated $1,000 and mailed it directly to the family.
“This money will help with airfare and housing,” said Natalie’s grandmother, Donna Willard. “Natalie is in Grand Rapids, Mich. for treatment.”
Hooch’s Kingman Grille is still accepting donations for Natalie. To contribute funds, donations can be dropped off at Hooch’s, 2215 E. Butler Ave. The hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. For more information or updates, the family has a Facebook group called “Team Natalie Dawn — Natalie’s Fighters.” https://www.facebook.com/teamnataliedawn/
“Most people want to give up and die when they hear they have cancer, said Miles Thornton.
“Not Natalie, she’s a pretty amazing little girl. She’s always laughing and smiling, and she loves to sing and play pranks on people. One minute she will be feeling very sick, and the next minute she’s putting toothpaste in Oreos.”