Anthony ‘Benny’ Benelisha is a husband, father, and friend who was recently diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer at the age of 27. Anthony achieved his dream of becoming a firefighter six years ago and has been working with the Arcata Fire District since. In that short time, Anthony has been awarded Rookie of the Year, Firefighter of the Year, and the Fire Chief’s Achievement Award. In addition to firefighting, Anthony has also been an EMT working for Arcata-Mad River Ambulance for 6 years.
Over the past several years, Anthony has volunteered for deployment to the Soberanes Fire, the Thomas Fire, the Camp Fire. He’s done this because of his firmly rooted belief of service above self. In addition to volunteering for assignments to large fires, Anthony has always made time to better himself as firefighter. He travels to fire conferences every year, and volunteers to teach local classes to newer firefighters beginning their careers.
Three years ago Anthony met the love of his life, Ashleigh, and two years ago they got married. It addition to becoming a firefighter and marrying the woman of his dreams, Anthony always wanted to be a father. That dream came true when his daughter Eleanor was born on March 14, 2019. This year, Anthony began his schooling to become a paramedic, but had to drop out due to his diagnosis and the side effects of the treatments involved. Along with dropping out of school, Anthony also had to stop working. Anthony is an incredibly loyal and kind man. He always looks out for the well being of everyone around him. He is well-loved and highly respected by his peers and coworkers for always doing the right thing. He doesn’t just do the right thing when no one is looking, he does the right thing when everyone is looking, even if it’s the unpopular thing to do. He is a true craftsman, and enjoys spending his down time building furniture, cooking for his family, and raising his daughter.
Anthony is currently under the care of an oncologist at UCSF, and has begun his first round of chemotherapy. His current treatment plan is two rounds of chemotherapy for six weeks each followed by surgical removal of the tumor. The surgery will likely leave him with a permanent colostomy. Anthony is currently pursuing a worker’s compensation claim, since the cancer is very likely job-related, however, other firefighters with job-related cancer in the comp. system have stated that it can take up to 5 years or more to begin getting any reimbursement. Because of this, Anthony and his wife have had to pay for some treatments out of pocket in order to be able to continue with treatments.
During Anthony’s first round of chemotherapy, he has to travel down to UCSF every two weeks from Eureka, CA for his treatment. During that time, he has been staying with friends and family, when possible, for three days, and then traveling home. When he is unable to stay with friends or Ashleigh and Eleanor are able to join him, he and Ashleigh have to pay for doggy day care as well as a hotel or Airbnb for them to stay in. While Ashleigh wants to be there for every treatment, she is also having to work full time and therefore can’t attend every appointment. When she does however, it also means that along with all the other expenses, they are losing money for missed days of work. During Anthony’s second round of treatment, he will need to live in San Francisco since his appointments will be Mon-Fri, for six weeks, and Ashleigh, Eleanor and their dog Kevin will stay behind.
We are looking to raise enough money to cover Anthony’s travels to and from his treatment as well as his food and lodging during both rounds of treatment. Additionally, the money will be used to cover his wife and daughter’s expenses as they travel down and back to see him, lodging for Kevin, and for any medical expenses that don’t get covered or they have to pay ahead of time. All funds raised will be going straight to the family for their needs.
As an example, travel expenses alone cost:
Gas $50-60 each way
Food $100-ish each trip
Parking $32 each visit (2 per treatment)
Doggie daycare $100
Bridge tolls $8
If we multiply this by the six initial treatments and trips is comes to:
An average Airbnb expense for three days is $1200. Anthony will have to rent a place for six weeks during the second round of treatments. If he is unable to find an apartment that will rent to him for such a short time, he will have to stay in a hotel or Airbnb that allows all three of them so that Ashleigh and Eleanor can come when they are able. Based on the cost of their last three day Airbnb stay, the six weeks could cost up to $16,800 for lodging alone. If you have any other questions about where money is going or anything else, please feel free to contact me.
***for those asking about dates Anthony will be doing his second round of treatments and offering to help find him a place to live, thank you so much! I don’t have the dates on here yet because they are not set in stoneThey are set to start six weeks after his first round ends, so around May, but this could change if he goes in for a round of chemo and the tests come back saying he is not healthy enough for that round yet which then prolongs the process. I will update here and also send out an update once there are set dates. Thank you to everyone who has reached out and offered to help find housing!
Thank you for any and all support for Anthony. If you feel called to do so, please share his story with others. He is a truly incredible man, and we are eager to see him healthy and back on the fire engine again.
This campaign was set up by me, Sinei Walker. I’m a friend of the family and my husband, Luke Walker, is a co-worker or Anthony at Arcata Fire. Anthony has been set up as the beneficiary. All funds raised will go directly to him.