DRS hosts cancer benefit

Elese O’Neill is not just a coworker, but also a friend to Florida A&M University Developmental Research School employees, students and parents.

That is why the Baby Rattler Family at FAMU DRS will host a support benefit Sunday in an effort to raise money for O’Neill, who on Jan. 18 found out she has cancer.

“The benefit is to raise money and help her sustain her day-to-day survival,” said Eileen Warner, chairwoman for the Courtesy Welfare Guild and an assistant professor of English at FAMU DRS. “She wouldn’t ask (for help), but I know she wouldn’t turn down help.”

Jones said FAMU DRS students are eager to participate in the event and want to do what they can to help O’Neill.

“(Students) will be glad to play a part because they miss her,” Jones said.

The Courtesy Welfare Guild at FAMU DRS, which organized the benefit along with other FAMU DRS employees, said its mission is to support their colleagues in need.

“She is a nice person,” said Betty Jones, a clerk at FAMU DRS. “I helped her in her office and she helped me in my office when I needed to be off.”

O’Neill said she is happy to be a part of the FAMU family and it makes her feel good to know there are people who care so much.

“It is a heartfelt experience to know that I am really cared for by FAMU,” O’Neill said. “God brought me (to FAMU) for a reason. I love FAMU.”

O’Neill has been on leave without pay for the past several months. She serves as a secretary at FAMU DRS and has been an employee at the school since 2000. She said her illness has taken a financial toll on her.

“With me being off (work), my bills are still coming in,” she said.

O’Neill said she did not accumulate enough sick time before she became ill to cover the time she had to take off.

Warner said the hosts of the benefit, which includes FAMU DRS administration, faculty, staff, students and parents, are not the only invited guests.

“We want to raise community awareness,” Warner said. “We are hoping to extend the invitation to the overall FAMU campus.”

Students at FAMU said Relay for Life, an annual cancer awareness initiative held March 29 on FAMU’s track and field, was a “wake-up call” for them to realize the importance of cancer research. They also said other students should become more involved with supporting causes such as O’Neill’s benefit.

“FAMU has already brought awareness to the campus with Relay for Life, but it shouldn’t stop there,” said Chloe Williams, 23, a business administration student from Chicago who plans to attend O’Neill’s benefit. “(O’Neill) is a FAMU employee and students need to show their support. I plan on attending the benefit and I hope other students do too.”

The benefit will be held 4 p.m., April 13 at Flipper Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church located at 708 Osceola St.