“Surround yourself with wonderful people and wonderful things will happen to you,” said Barry Williams, an assistant football coach at Wilkes Central High School and physical education teacher at C.C. Wright School for the past 12 years.
That is his explanation for a large group of his friends organizing a cancer fundraising support initiative, “March 4 Barry,” on March 3 and 4. Proceeds will be used to help cover the costs of Williams’ medical expenses for treatment from esophageal cancer, first discovered in April 2010.
This fall, Williams and his wife, Heather, a kindergarten teacher at Mount Pleasant Elementary School, and his mother, Patsy, learned the cancer had progressed to stage 3 and metasized to his liver.
The prognosis looked bad, said Williams, who is on medical leave from his teaching position. But then his doctors at Duke Medical Center were able to use a procedure known as the RFA that basically burned the tumor. That treatment was in addition to several years of chemotherapy and radiation.
“This is a hard cancer to treat, but for some reason the good Lord wants to keep me around,” said Williams.
He gives much credit to his doctors at Duke. But most of all he credits his wife, whom he describes as the “backbone of the deal. I couldn’t do this without her… she takes care of me.”
He says the two don’t let the cancer run their lives and remain upbeat.
This is Williams’ third bout with cancer. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was 13.
The latest cancer developed a few years after his father, Ralph “Butch” Williams, died of esophageal cancer in 2005. His brother, Danny, died from the same cancer in April 1994. Unbelievably, Williams’ grandfather also died from esophageal cancer.
Williams, 34, has a positive attitude about his condition and his friends are quick to say he is a hero to them.
“He has an amazing peace about him,” said Lynn Church, a West Wilkes High classmate of Williams’ wife, Heather Ayers Williams. “You sense the presence of the Lord.”
“Barry is a fighter and he is doing pretty darn good right now,” said David Still of Memphis, Tenn., a college friend and fraternity brother of Williams’ at ASU.
The two are part of a group of friends from Williams’ church, his schools, his wife’s school and nurses raising money to cover his very expensive medical expenses.
“From pinto bean suppers, to bake sales and to the ‘March 4 Barry,’ the community is coming together to show their love as a testament to Barry and Heather’s character,” said Still.
Already they have raised over $11,000 from individual participants and corporate sponsors. Their goal is to raise $30,000 through a weekend of community events at “March 4 Barry.”
The $30,000 will cover a significant portion of the nearly unimaginable medical bills incurred by Williams in his war against cancer, said organizers. It will also hopefully help with funding future treatments.
The weekend will kick off with a concert and social event at 6th and Main Restaurant in North Wilkesboro at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 4.
Music will be provided by Michael Eller, who graduated from Wilkes Central with Williams in 1995. The two also played baseball together. Eller is now a musician and popular area performer.
The one-mile “March 4 Barry” walk from Wilkes Central to Moravian Falls Baptist Church will be on Sunday, March 4 at 12:30 p.m. A cost of $25 will provide admission to the walk and a wristband.
Wristbands are available for purchase the morning of the event or online at www.march4barry.org. Individuals may easily participate in the weekend’s activities by registering online at www.march4barry.org. To join the corporate sponsors, 6th & Main Restaurant & Bar, Kickin’ Grass Mower Shop, Simply Store More storage, and Bayada Home Health Care, contact David Still at (901) 601-0404.
Other fundraisers are planned and have also been held for Williams.
David Brooks, a coach and choral teacher at Wilkes Central High School, helped raise over $2,500 from teachers, parents and students.
Lynn Church and Team Nurse of North Wilkesboro have organized a blood drive/bake sale in honor of the Williams on Friday, Feb. 24. There will be a raffle of gift cards and other items. All proceeds will go to Barry Williams to help cover medical expenses. Team Nurse is located at 37 Boone Trail, North Wilkesboro, right above the hospital. Any questions call 667-7881 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Rev. David Wellborn, minister of Fishing Creek Arbor Baptist Church is planning a fundraising event, possible a pig picking. The church congregation is also participating in the “March 4 Barry.” The Williams attend Fishing Creek Baptist.
Donna Church, a teacher at Mulberry Elementary, is organizing a pinto bean supper at Mount Pleasant School.
Williams is anxious to return to teaching at C.C. Wright and coaching the linebackers at Wilkes Central. He has one more chemotherapy treatment and hopes the doctors will let him return to work then.
Since 2010, he has had three or four rounds of chemotherapy and surgery which took most of his stomach and his entire esophagus. This fall he helped coach the Wilkes Central football team to a 10-2 record despite that recent major surgery.
It is easy to see why Williams’ friends describe him as a “cancer warrior and hometown hero.”
“I had to twist Barry’s arm to let us have this fundraiser,” said Darren Pierce, founder of ‘March 4 Barry.’ Pierce of Raleigh is a fraternity brother of Williams’ at ASU.
“He is just so humble and always thinks of helping others and giving back to the community,” said Pierce.
“Barry is surprised that so many people have contributed already… but he deserves this. He is an amazing person.”