Kyle Henricksen is in the fight of his life.
But the 35-year-old father of four isn’t standing alone, discovering in the last week that he has an entire community – his village – backing him in his moment of need.
The lifelong Manteca resident and East Union High graduate was diagnosed last month with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his stomach lining – a form of cancer that is typically diagnosed in patients with an average age of 71.
When his local managed care provider was unable to provide the sort of care options that he found suitable for such an aggressive form of cancer, Henricksen and his wife Jennifer began looking elsewhere – checking with every major cancer center in the United States before discovering that Stanford has a drug trial specifically for this type of cancer starting soon.
But since their insurance company won’t pay for the treatment, everything pertaining to the trial will have to be paid for out-of-pocket.
So, the community stepped in.
Within four days a GoFundMe started by friends and family has raised more than $68,000 to help the Henricksen family. Other donations have started to come in as well.
While Henricksen knew that he had support in his hometown, the sheer magnitude of people that have gone out of their way to help – and opened their wallets to help – left him speechless.
“I’m not really good with the emotional stuff,” said Henricksen, a Pleasanton police officer, while choking back tears. “From the bottom of my heart, I genuinely appreciate everything that people have done for us.”
The outpouring of support was immediate on social media when Henricksen and his wife Jennifer decided after several weeks that they needed to reach out for help and make the diagnosis public.
But it was the unexpected support that really caught the couple off guard.
From the teachers at both Walter Woodward Elementary and Manteca High schools that were practically fighting to see who would get to help on behalf of their staffs.
To the two Manteca Police Department detectives that stopped by to offer their support to a fellow law enforcement officer.
And it was even the person with a local business that decorates houses for Christmas that told them that he would be coming over and taking care of everything so that they could focus on what was important.
The wider law enforcement community – from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department where he started his career almost two decades ago, to the Pleasanton Police Department where he currently works, to other Bay Area agencies and even the California Highway Patrol – have also turned out en masse to let their fellow brother in blue know that he isn’t alone.
For those that knew the couple, however, the outpouring of support was not tremendously unexpected.
In addition to being involved in the community through organizations like Manteca Little League and Victorious Elite Allstars, the couple also took on the tremendous responsibility of raising children that needed a home. Not long after they were married Jennifer Henricksen’s mother passed away unexpectedly, and she and her husband took on the role of raising her then 5-year-old sister – now 18-year-old Dest.
When Kyle’s brother passed away of a heart condition three years ago, they welcomed his niece Alyssa, who was then 14-years-old, into the family. And now with Zoey, 11, and Cohen, 9, their days are packed full of family fun – with weekend camping trips to the coast a regular occurrence.
Still, the volume of phone calls, messages, donations and well-wishes humbled the already humble Henricksens, and made even more grateful to be a part of a community that cares.
“It was really emotional to see people come together to help us,” Jennifer Henricksen said. “It’s amazing to know that we have this community that is coming behind us. In our group of friends, I’m always the one who is trying to help everybody else and now they’re the ones that are helping us.
The immunotherapy drugs that are used in clinical trials like the one that Henricksen is starting on Tuesday can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per round.
Those wishing to assist the family can visit www.gofundme.com/gdapa-help-kyle-kick-cancer - a brief bio on Henricksen and the family’s story is available there.
There will also be a drive-thru dinner at Fagundes Meats and Catering on Thursday, Nov. 29, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. For $15 you get tri tip and ribs, pesto pasta, Italian green beans, a roll and butter.
Another fundraiser – a paint night – is currently scheduled for Dec. 16. More information will become available for that event as it gets closer.
Local screen-printing companies have also donated shirts and materials for the family to create custom t-shirts bearing the slogans “Kyle’s Village” and “Kyle Kicks Cancer.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.