By Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor
DORA — When Kellie Bilbrey was getting the word out on a fund-raiser for her 3-year-old niece Hope Bilbrey, she tried to be realistic about the donations she and her family would receive.
“We were hoping maybe we could get $20 each from the kids and get $2,000 or $3,000,” the Dora teacher’s aide said of the students at her place of employment.
Her hopes were far exceeded, as the combined efforts of Elida and Dora far exceeded that total. Event organizers said that “Walkin’ for Hope” events at Elida and Dora schools netted more than $12,000 on Thursday and total fund-raising could reach $27,000.
“It is amazing what these small towns can do,” said Leslie Creighton, who helped organize Elida’s event. “People take for granted living in a small town, but when these small towns get together, you won’t believe how they come out to help people.”
The events were created to raise funds for the family of Hope Bilbrey, who has undergone surgery to remove two cancerous tumors. Family members said that Hope Bilbrey has six to eight months of chemotherapy treatments, with treatments about once a month.
Creighton said Thursday night that she had more than $10,000 in hand from donations by students, citizens and area businesses, and that many donations are still being collected.
In addition to about $12,000 raised through auctions earlier this month and $2,200 raised by Dora High, Creighton said that the current funds raised equal about $25,000.
Hope Bilbrey’s family lives in Kenna, about six miles south of Elida and just inside Roosevelt County.
“It’s just really overwhelming,” said Cody Bilbrey, Hope’s mother. “The whole community has been so generous and kind. We know that God has just been working through the whole community and he’ll receive the glory.
“We’re so thankful that we live in this community.”
The funds raised would seem to indicate that almost everybody in the three small towns knew about Hope Bilbrey’s condition. The only one who doesn’t seem to know is Hope herself.
“She’s being just a 3-year-old,” Cody Bilbrey said. “It’s amazing how kids adjust to the things that are in their life and they accept that this is part of their daily routine.”
Creighton said the Elida Parent Teacher Organization sponsored the project, and worked for about a month to get the word out.
Some of Hope’s family members did the work in Dora, though they admit it wasn’t a difficult task.
“I told everybody in my classes and I put it in our school newspaper,” said Amelia Bilbrey, Hope’s cousin and a freshman at Dora High School. “I was just trying to get them involved and it didn’t take much.”
After the event in Dora, both Kellie and Amelia Bilbrey were adorned in green shirts, which included a heart logo with the name “Hope” inside. Each participant received a shirt as well, provided they raised at least $20.
“Our high school made about $2,200,” Kellie Bilbrey said. “Our elementary kids are going to walk in the morning (today), so we don’t have anything yet from them.”
Event organizers expect donations will continue through the end of next week. Leslie Creighton said that anybody still wishing to donate may either send donations to the Elida PTO at P.O. Box 247, Elida, NM 88116, or at the Creighton’s Town and Country store in Portales.
Checks should be made out to the Hope Bilbrey Fund.