In 2011 Chinos Liner developed a cancerous tumor in his sinuses from sun exposure. As part of the entertainment staff at a hotel in Cancun, Mexico for many years, he spent every day in the sun. Unfortunately, he found out about the cancer right after he and the hotel had parted ways. You know how it is, you put off going to see the doctor until you have no more excuses, like having to go to work.
Chinos learned a lot in those first few weeks after being diagnosed. He learned that there were no cancer treatments centers in Cancun. The nearest treatment center was in Merida, a 5 hour bus ride away. Given the time needed for travel and treatment, a treatment session usually means an overnight stay after the treatment before coming home. And treatments aren’t cheap, especially when you don’t have a job or insurance. Even if you have insurance, without a little extra payment here or there to get the test results in days rather than weeks, you could be behind in recovery the whole way.
But he also learned that people cared about him. The hotel actually put him back on the payroll so that he would have insurance benefits to help begin to pay for the treatments. Then the guests that he had entertained for years found out about his situation and started a fund to help pay for the transportation to the treatments, the lodging in Merida (he needed to stay in a hotel for the air conditioning to assist in his healing as opposed to a general shelter), and the extra grease to get his test results sooner. The outpouring of love and donations was so great that even after two years of treatment (a total of 25 radiation therapies) to get the tumor small enough to operate on and getting it removed in a 4.5 hour surgery, he still had money left over.
Chinos, being Chinos the man and not the entertainer, couldn’t just pocket the money. He remembered seeing the folks sleeping in the halls of the hospital in Merida because they had no money for hotel rooms. He remembered hearing them discuss not eating because they had to choose between food or bus money to get home. That’s when he started the Chinos Cause for Cancer. He went back to the same people that had been helping him and told them of what he had learned and had seen. He asked for their help in making these people’s lives a little easier. He started working with the Kindness house that supplied transportation, housing in Merida, and food to help patients and their families stay healthy. And the support from the tourist community continued.
Then one day Chinos heard about a group trying to raise 100,000 pesos for an operation for a child with cancer. This was his introduction to Fundacion Aitana AC or the Aitana House as we know it. He got to know Yusi Dzib who started the foundation when she lost her daughter to cancer. She too learned the hard way about the lack of support services in Cancun and vowed not to let that continue. And Chinos got to know the kids. The ones that, no matter how bad it got, squared their shoulders, put a smile on their faces, and went out to take on the world. And he got to know the ones that became Angels that come back as butterflies when they didn’t survive their illness. And then he had a dream, “I wanna take some of these kids to Disney! How hard can that be?”
Well, it turned out to be a little harder that he thought but he never wavered. To get them into the US, you need a Visa… Ok, let’s go for the Visa! But you have to have something to put the Visa in; they needed passports. Ok, let’s go get the passports… But remember this is a poor country and not every child is born in the hospital. Some are born at home. And not all kids born at home get registered at birth so now we are talking about getting them birth certificates so we can get passports so we can get Visas… And all that must happen before you start talking about airfare, hotel, food, transportation, and then the Disney tickets themselves. But still he never wavered. And so, in 2015, the first 7 kids made the Dream 1 trip to Orlando, Florida. There were 9 more kids for Dream 2 in 2016, 10 for Dream 3 in 2017, and 7 for Dream 4 in 2018. Planning for Dream 5 is already underway. In each case, Chinos Cause for Cancer pays for all the kids’ expenses and for 2 chaperones to attend. Chinos, the accompanying Doctor, and US-based volunteers that join the fun pay their own way.
But making Dreams come true in Disney is not all that Chinos Cause for Cancer is doing. There are other trips being done: Two Cruises for the mothers to give them a break and pamper them a little; trips to Six Flags in Mexico City; a trip to Cirque du Soleil in Guadalajara, Mexico; a trip to New Orleans for one of the kids to be recognized by the Wishes, Wonders & Whodats charity organization.
Then there is the funding of: tuition assistance to help kids attend college if they keep their grades and attendance up; medical payment assistance; transportation assistance to Merida; making sure the rest of the kids stay in school and keep their grades up; and food for families to help in the healing process.
And there are the major projects being funded: like helping Fundacion Aitana AC purchase four chairs to be installed in a local Cancun hospital so that treatments can happen locally. Chinos Cause for Cancer is now working on raising funds to pay for medication to be given to the kids. Chinos Cause for Cancer assisted in the purchase of the Aitana House so that any improvements made stayed with the Foundation. And improvements were made like the addition of the Dream Room where the older kids can come and study on provided computers, learn English, and relax in a supportive environment. The work that is being done is recognized locally. Yusi Dzib was awarded the 2017 Citizen of the Year Award by the Salinas Group in Cancun for her determination and the work it accomplishes every day.
The work continues as we support Chinos and the Chinos Cause for Cancer in raising money for additional Dream trips to Disney, more Cruises for the fighting moms, furthering the work of the Fundacion Aitana, and helping to provide the all-important medicine to fight the disease. In addition, another expansion to the Aitana House is in the planning phase for a Kids’ Room to match the Dream Room that was added for the older kids. Chinos’ story is still being written as he continues his mission to help children and their parents fight cancer.
(Originally written by Jamie Bachant, updated for clarity and with new information)