2017-03-23 / Front Page

GOING GREEN FOR EILEEN

Fundraiser Saturday to help Jamestowner fight rare leukemia
BY RYAN GIBBS

ABOVE: Eileen Tiexiera hula-hoops at a Jimmy Fund walk-a-thon in Boston just months before she was diagnosed with cancer. According to her friends, the smile hasn’t left her face, despite the battle.ABOVE: Eileen Tiexiera hula-hoops at a Jimmy Fund walk-a-thon in Boston just months before she was diagnosed with cancer. According to her friends, the smile hasn’t left her face, despite the battle.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going — going green, that is.

Family and friends of Eileen Tiexiera are hosting a fundraiser, dubbed “Going Green for Eileen,” Saturday afternoon at the Newport Elks Lodge on Pelham Street. Money from the campaign will benefit Tiexiera’s medical expenses, which have been building since she was diagnosed with cancer in December.

Tiexiera, 60, is a longtime Jamestown resident who lives on Howland Avenue with her husband, Steve, although she hasn’t been there much in 2017. Following the bad news, Tiexiera spent seven weeks in Rhode Island Hospital undergoing chemotherapy and testing. Before her diagnosis, however, it was the other way around — she was the practitioner, not the patient. Tiexiera, who currently administrates the health center at St. George’s School, worked as a nurse in the birthing center at Newport Hospital for three decades.


TOP: Firefighters, bagpipers and drummers march from the fire museum to Narragansett Cafe in honor of Eileen Tiexiera. 
PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN TOP: Firefighters, bagpipers and drummers march from the fire museum to Narragansett Cafe in honor of Eileen Tiexiera. PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Tiexiera’s specific disease is Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a relatively rare form of cancer that is characterized by the overproduction of immature white blood cells in the bone marrow. Without treatment, those cells, known as lymphoblasts, continuously multiply and inhibit the production of normal ones. The dangerous cells also can infiltrate the central nervous system and organs, including the spleen and liver.

To combat the aggressive disease, Tiexiera constantly needs expert care, which can be expensive. To that end, the outpouring of support has been palpable.

Although her illness kept her from going to the Narragansett Cafe party, Eileen Tiexiera (in car) greeted her supporters outside, including her husband, Steve (with hat), and her son, Kyle. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Although her illness kept her from going to the Narragansett Cafe party, Eileen Tiexiera (in car) greeted her supporters outside, including her husband, Steve (with hat), and her son, Kyle. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN “I love Eileen and it was just a no-brainer,” said Joanne Phillips, a former colleague of Tiexiera’s from her Newport Hospital days. “When you have a great friend, you just want to help.”

The name, “Going Green for Eileen,” is more than just a catchy slogan. The color scheme not only reflects Tiexiera’s pride of her Irish heritage, but orange represents leukemia awareness. It’s the color of the ribbons.

Saturday’s fundraiser, which starts at 4 p.m., will feature raffles and a silent auction, with prizes including a weekend getaway to Martha’s Vineyard and baseline seats at Fenway Park. Also, two bands will perform live: Boarding House Reach, which features Jamestowner Tony Gutierrez, and Beyond Therapy, a band that showcases Dr. Joe England, whose practice is on Southwest Avenue.

Unfortunately, Tiexiera will not attend because of her condition, but she is overcome by the community support, Phillips said. “Eileen is overwhelmed. People are excited to do anything to help the family.”

According to Phillips, the fundraiser isn’t going to be a dreary outing with a focus on Tiexiera’s disease, but instead an “uplifting and positive” celebration.

“We’re not out to look at the morose because Eileen is not like that,” Phillips said. “She always wants to put a positive foot in front of the next. When people come, it’s going to be fun with a lot of energy.”

Although it probably will be the biggest, this weekend’s shindig is not the first campaign in Tiexiera’s honor. Prior to marching in the Newport St. Patrick’s Day parade, firefighters in town had lunch together, which has become an annual rite for the crew. Although most are Jamestown volunteers, they usually eat in Newport to celebrate the Irish holiday. This year, however, they ate in their hometown for the first time to honor Tiexiera. Among the firefighters who attended the lunch were her husband, who is a deputy chief in Jamestown, and her two sons, Kyle and Christian, who are firefighters in Portsmouth and North Kingstown, respectively.

The firefighters also had a small procession, complete with bagpipes and drums, down Narragansett Avenue from the fire museum to the Narragansett Cafe. Tiexiera and her daughter, Rebekah, watched the parade.

“They actually serenaded our car, surrounded us and played for my mom,” Rebekah said. “That was absolutely unbelievable for my mom to experience.”

The lunch at the Ganny, which included live music and raffles, ultimately raised more than $25,000 for Tiexiera.

“That’s Jamestown,” said Deputy Chief Howie Tighe, who also serves as a captain in the Portsmouth department. “When people are down and out and need help, Jamestowners rise up and help wherever they can. It was a good showing. We were very pleased at the outcome. We’re kind of blown away by how much people were willing to help out.”

Tiexiera’s co-workers at St. George’s also have been raising awareness for her battle with leukemia. The school had a blood drive in January and a registry the following month to find a bone marrow donor. Her husband and sons attended to thank everyone on behalf of the family.

After spending weeks at Rhode Island Hospital, Tiexiera is now home receiving outpatient therapy. She has been matched with a potential donor and currently is preparing for a transplant, tentatively scheduled for April.

“The support and compassion that we’ve been shown from family, friends and complete strangers is indescribable,” Rebekah said. “People are offering to help in any way they can, and we can’t thank them enough. It is the true definition of family and community. We are beyond blessed.”

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