Community rallies for young man battling leukemia

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The blood drive didn't start till noon, but as early as 9 a.m., someone was standing outside of St. Terese Catholic Church ready to give blood.

And the people kept coming.  Housed in a bright yellow bus, the Blood Center out of New Orleans set up a mobile unit next to the church.

The effort was for 19-year-old Clyde C.J. Bullard.  He's battling acute myeloid leukemia.  The disease attacks blood and bone marrow. Aside from chemotherapy, patients often need blood transfusion to help replenish their supply of blood and platelets.

According to the National Cancer Institute, it's estimated more than 12-thousand new cases of acute myeloid leukemia will be diagnosed this year.  Though it's a common form of leukemia among adults, it tends to be rare in people under 40.

Bullard is undergoing his second round of chemotherapy at the Children's Hospital in New Orleans.  His family said the outpouring support from the community has been overwhelming.

"All the people who stood out in the heat, they just kept waiting and waiting to give blood. C.J. would be out done," said Teresa Bullard.

Sisters Judy and Patrice Lombard organized the blood drive.  With help from church members and community friends, they also cooked and sold food plates to help the Bullard family.

"If that were my child, I know Teresa would be doing the same thing, that's what we do.  And that's what so overwhelming about today that people who came had that same mindset," said Judy Barkum.

Even more impressive according to organizers was the effort among young people to give blood and help out.  The Kappa League, a youth organization of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc, of which C.J.'s was involved, came ready.

"It's not even the fact that he's my brother, I'd do it for anybody. But, just the fact that he is my brother that makes it even more important for us to get out here and support him," said Imani Lombard, president of Kappa League.

Workers with The Blood Center said blood drives in African-American communities, at times, tend to have low turn-outs.  But, at this one, the community stepped up.  Organizers surpassed their goal of 40 people as 61 turned out to give blood.

"I don't have the words to describe it. It's a beautiful thing," said Bullard.

Family members said the good news is that C.J.'s cancer is treatable.

If you'd like to help C.J. and his family, you can stop by St. Terese Catholic Church in Gulfport. It's located at 3521 19th Street.  You can also call 228-324-3299 for more information on how you can C.J. and his family.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.