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West Village Restaurant Raising Money for Leukemia Patient

Fernando Calixto wears a mask during one of his numerous stints in the hospital since finding out in March he had Leukemia.
Fernando Calixto wears a mask during one of his numerous stints in the hospital since finding out in March he had Leukemia.
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Courtesy of Jennifer Calixto

WEST VILLAGE — A West Village bar and restaurant is holding a fundraising event Sunday night to help pay for surgery for the cousin of its long-term bartender who has leukemia.

Without a lifesaving bone marrow transplant, Fernando Calixto, 40, has been given a terminal prognosis. To help cover the $300,000 operation, Cowgirl, on West 10th and Hudson streets is heading up a fundraising event.

“I’m shocked at how people are responding,” said Kristin “K.K.” Rogne, 38, the events coordinator at Cowgirl. She said more than $3,000 has already been donated through Cowgirl and does not include funds that have gone directly to Calixto.

Calixto’s cousin, Fernando Mendez, 30, has worked at Cowgirl for more than a decade, and said the cancer has left has left his cousin exhausted and depressed. It went undiagnosed for a long time before being caught in the spring, relatives said.

“If he has noticed [the cancer] a long time ago he would have been fine,” said Mendez.

Fernando Calixto is married and has three children ages 17, 16, and 11, has already been approved as a bone marrow donor, and doctors will begin the procedure once $150,000 has been raised, he told DNAinfo. He said he has no health insurance.

He lost his job in the food industry after he became sick, has already undergone two chemotherapy treatments for the cancer, which was diagnosed March 5, he said.

“The first chemo didn’t work. The second chemo didn’t work, so they told me, ‘You need to find a transplant because your leukemia is very aggressive,’” said Calixto, who was born in Mexico but now lives in the Bronx.

“All my systems are low. I don't have any white blood cells,” he said.

Calixto’s 17-year-old daughter, Jennifer, is also using social media to draw in funds. She started a Facebook group and a blog, "Help Save My Father's Life," to help raise funds for her father.

The fundraiser at Cowgirl has a suggested donation of $20, which includes food and drinks. All funds raised will go directly to Calixto’s operation fund.

For Rogne, who is organizing the event, the response from customers and suppliers who have donated food has restored her faith in humanity.

 “It has been amazing to see the outreach, the outpouring of generosity,” she said.

The fundraiser is from 6 p.m to 10 p.m on Sunday July 16 at Cowgirl at 255 West 10th Street in the West Village. There is a $20 suggested donation. Donations can also be dropped off at Cowgirl.