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Imperial County Medic walks to raise money

Nicole Smith
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     On a clear and quiet eveningParamedic Guillermo Gonzalez prepared for his night. He checked his gear, had provisions in hand and made sure his GPS was mapped to his destinationHe tightened the laces of his shoes and looked out into the lights of the night with determination. This was no ordinary night, however. That night didn’t involve 911 calls, an ambulance, hospitals, or late-night stops at the convenience store. That night, he embarked on a walk from the Mexico border of Imperial County to the border of Riverside County, a 58-mile trek that took him across the county in which he works and lives.  

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Several months prior to that night he had a crazy idea. He thought about it for a while, wondering if it could become reality. He wanted to do a fundraiser for Mental Health Awareness in EMSGuillermo knew he wanted to do a charity walk, from one end of Imperial County to the other. He would ask to be sponsored at $1 a mile. What he did not know was how to organize the event or even where to start but knew who to ask; his friend and co-worker Anthony Villa Jara. Anthony set out to coordinate the event, down to the minute logistics that would keep Guillermo safe and taken care of. Guillermo had set a goal of $15,000 and both got to work. However, a single phone call would shift the focus of this walk and change the lives of those involved forever. 

     A friend and fellow paramedic named Carlos (last name purposefully withheld) was getting ready for an important interview in a few days. Guillermo had called his friend to wish him good luck, only to find out that he had been admitted to the hospital. Carlos explained that he had been bruising quickly and from the slightest of touches and decided to get it investigated. It had not been happening for exceptionally long, but Carlos did not want to wait. Just two days before he had been working, performing difficult tasks under physical and mental pressure so he did not think it was too serious. Two days after being admitted Carlos was diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukemia, also known as AML. Carlos was devastated. He was scared and unsure of the future. As he told Guillermo of his diagnosis and his fears, Guillermo knew instantly what he needed to do.  

     As soon as he could he called Anthony and told him what happened. He told Anthony that he now wanted to walk to raise money for Carlos, and Anthony agreed immediatelyThey set to work. Guillermo knew in that moment that this was going to change it all. Before it was for charity, but now, it was for a friend. A fellow co-worker. One of their own. He was not going to let him down.  

     Guillermo, Anthony and several others went to the community for help, and help they did. The local fire districts, the police agencies and the community rallied behind Guillermo and Carlos, and in the first 24 hours they raised just over $5000. The community that Carlos had so diligently served with compassion and integrity came to his aid, giving back a little of what Carlos has given. This close-knit community takes pride in taking care of each other, and with love and empathy in their hearts they knew it was time to take care of the caregiver. Guillermo himself was encouraged by the support of his community and allied agencies and found his strength and resolve increase over each day preparing for his fundraising walk.  


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     On the evening of May 24th2021, at 2045 hours he started his walk. He was supported by his friends, family, co-workers, community, allied agencies, and his union UEMSW local 4911He started off that evening with a sense of purpose, knowing that he was helping someone who could not help themselves at the moment. He was sacrificing sleep, food, rest and time with family, something that EMS workers sacrifice daily to help those in need. Something that Carlos sacrificed every time he put on his uniform. Guillermo made a promise to a friend and to himself that he would see this through. And see it through he did.  

     Guillermo started strong, even jogging sometimes to try and make time go by quickly. Yet as the evening wore on into the early hours of the next morning, he felt his strength start to falter. He started to question whether he could do this, if his body could continue or if his mind would give up. In these moments, when his faith started to waiver, his friends were there. They made sure he was hydrated. They made sure he was nourished. They walked and talked with him, lifting his spirits, and taking his mind of off his fatigue and aching body. They made him laugh, offered words of encouragement, and never let him give up. They made sure he was not alone. This game him the strength to continue, knowing that this was what it was all about. Never letting one of their own feel alone. Being there for each other, caring for each other and their families is what this close work force is who they are. One friend walked with him for 30 miles, not once complaining, reminding Guillermo of his purpose and the good he was doing.  

     Finally, in the afternoon of May 25th2021 at 1530 hours, he reached his destination. Guillermo walked the final steps, proud and triumphant, exhausted, and elated, knowing he accomplished this crazy idea. He acknowledged that he did not do it alone. Anthony Villa Jara, Ethan Gomez, Andrew RomanBrad Kaufman, Nicholas Obeso and more helped him achieve his dream. They did not only do it for Guillermo, but for their co-worker and friend Carlos who was in the hospital fighting for his life. They did it for Carlos's family. They did it for all the people they care about, sending a message that together they are stronger, and they will always fight for their own.  

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In the end Guillermo helped raise over $17,000 for Carlos, exceeding the goal by more than $2,000. When speaking with Guillermo he was humble, making it a point to acknowledge all those that helped him with this endeavor, his friends and co-workers, allied agencies, the community at large, and his wife and daughter. He made sure that it was understood that this was not a singular task, but a combined effort of several caring individuals willing to work together for someone in need. He does not consider this his own accomplishment, but the accomplishment of all involved. 

     Guillermo said that when this idea came to mind, he knew it was going to take a lot of time and effort on his part and knew that he would need the support of his family. His wife, who he turned to for advice, told him to follow his dream. She told him that he would not be able to rest until he saw this crazy idea through, assured him that she would be there every step of the way, and she was. He also thought about his infant daughter. He wanted to leave her with something she could look back on for encouragement when things got difficult. He wanted to leave her a legacy she could be proud of. He knew that this could be the guiding light for her when she had what she thought was an impossible dream, and give her the determination to see it through. 

     This walk was more than just for charity. It is a reminder that when individuals come together as a unit near anything can be accomplished. This is a clear example of what the human spirits is capable of, and that we are stronger when together.

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we work as a unit for a common purpose everyone benefits. We lift each other up, rise above adversity and celebrate success. We become closer. We become a community bonded by strength, integrity and compassion. When caring for others as well as ourselves, we simply become better. 


Guillermo Gonzalez is a paramedic for AMR, and serves the community of Imperial CountyHe has lived in the community his entire life and has served as a paramedic for over 6 years, and continues to do so.