Taco dinner fundraiser benefits Christian Gutierrez
A young man with leukemia

“They all know my son, and they love him”

When a family like Christian Gutierrez is in need of a helping hand, people are willing to do what it takes. In the Latino community it’s about tacos and about raising money for doctor visits and paying for medicine.


Lively chatter filled the Gutierrez home in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood late last month as local mother Shelly Gutierrez hosted a taco fundraiser for her son, Christian.

The 28-year-old Christian has been diagnosed with leukemia, a type of blood cancer that attacks a body’s bone marrow. As anyone with a loved one who has cancer knows, the disease not only zaps a person’s energy it’s hard on the pocketbook, too. Unfortunately, he lost his job due to COVID and had just started working again and had only been with a new company for 6 months and was only eligible for insurance after 90 days, so the employer was not eligible to keep him on their insurance while he was off work since he had not accumulated enough hours per their insurance company. The money raised from the taco fundraiser will go toward paying for Christian’s doctor visits, treatments, and medications.

Christian’s prognosis is good, Shelly says, but there is still a long road ahead for her son.

“He was on (chemotherapy) treatments, but they had to stop those because they were affecting his liver. So, right now they’re on hold,” Shelly explains. “They should start it up again soon and do a bone marrow transplant in two to three months.”

Thankfully, she adds, a match for Christian’s blood type has already been found, so now all the family has to do is wait for the date of the surgery.

For now, Shelly has plenty to keep her busy – the taco fundraiser, for one.

“I’m very thankful for family and friends coming out and helping,” she says, singling out one helper in particular. “Everyone has been very helpful, especially Teresa Grado. I knew her a little bit, but she came to me to donate her time and put everything together. She was very special, and I really appreciate that.”

Christian’s aunt, Petrina “Chicky” Lopez, was on hand at the fundraiser, too, helping to cook and take donations. She also says she appreciates Grado for her tireless work in helping to organize the event.

“Teresa Grado played a big role,” Lopez says. “She does fundraisers for a lot of people, and she offered to help us with this one, and we truly appreciate it.”

Though Christian couldn’t be at the fundraiser in person, his mom says he was surprised by her news that the event was so well attended.

“He said he can’t believe how many people are participating, and he is thankful everyone who is participating,” Shelly says.

Shelly, who says she has health issues herself, adds that she is glad her son has his youth on his side in the battle against leukemia.

“I am very lucky and I still go to doctors,” Shelly says. “(Christian) has been told this will be a long process, but he is young, so that’s a good thing.”

Lopez called her nephew “strong,” and says she is confident he will beat the disease.

“It’s a great turnout, and I love all of the support for Christian,” Lopez says, her voice choked with emotion. “It doesn’t get better than this. I’m so thankful for all of our friends and family.”

Shelly says the outpouring of love and support from the community has shown just how many lives Christian has touched in his life so far.

“They all know my son, and they love him,” she says, “so this is a big help.”