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Kengi Sei-Hernandez and Rafael Veraza
students with Rep. Ciro Rodriguez
Top photo: Student fundraisers Kengi Sei-Hernandez (left) and
Rafael Veraza. Bottom photo: UTSA Hispanic Student Association
members Ana Laura Bres (in green) and Felipe Barrera (in tan)
appeal for fundraising assistance from Rep. Ciro Rodriguez at
an April 4 UTSA visit.

UTSA students raise money for sick Mexican boy

By Kris Rodriguez
Public Affairs Specialist

(April 5, 2007)--UTSA students are part of a group of 25 San Antonio college students working to raise $500,000 to save the life of Adrian Flores-Saucedo, a seven-year-old boy from Piedra Negras, Mexico.

A small group of students who attend St. Matthew's Catholic Church began by praying for the world around them, and then decided to embark on an effort to help the boy in desperate need of a heart transplant.

Leading UTSA's efforts in the project are Kengi Sei-Hernandez, a 25-year-old graduate student; Rafael Veraza, a 21-year-old junior pre-med biology major; and Karla Allala, a 22-year-old senior communication major and employee in the Office of the Vice Provost, Downtown Campus. Sei-Hernandez and Veraza are neurobiology researchers in the laboratory of Edwin Barea-Rodriguez, UTSA associate professor of biology.

"I'm really proud of them, it's unbelievable and I hope that more students learn about this and take similar steps in helping others," said Barea-Rodriguez. "You know there's a point in life where you move from being successful to significant, and I think that both of them have shown that.

Sei-Hernandez learned about Flores-Saucedo's heart condition from his mother in Piedras Negras; the boy's grandmother works for Sei-Hernandez' family. When local medical facilities were unequipped to help, friends and family were able to arrange acceptance of the child as a charity case at Methodist Children's Hospital in San Antonio. The next problems would be to raise money for the transplant, then locate a surgeon and an appropriate hospital.

Since February, the student group distributed fliers in San Antonio asking for support. Donations started coming in, including $10,000 from George and Florence Schulgen of Kerrville, but time was running out and more money was needed.

The students were able to get an impassioned letter from Adrian's mother to former Mexican President Vicente Fox and his wife, Marta Fox, when Fox spoke recently at Trinity University. After reading the letter, the former first lady said she would assist the students in their cause.

"Right away she told us she could help with this, then she picked up her phone and started calling doctors and governmental officials in Mexico to make them aware of the situation," said Veraza.

"We went out to distribute more fliers outside to the people leaving the auditorium and were surprised to learn from the media that President Fox mentioned Adrian in his speech that night," said Veraza. The students waited to hear from Marta Fox.

After Fox' address, Sei-Hernandez and Veraza were flooded with phone calls from concerned citizens and media from San Antonio and Mexico requesting interviews with the students.

"I have not slept more than four hours a night over the last two weeks," said Sei-Hernandez. "Our members are rotating in shifts to stay with Adrian and his mother, Lizette, in the hospital, between classes and the research work we're doing in the laboratories."

Fortunately, more donations are coming. The 150-member UTSA Hispanic Students Association and city government and corporate officials in Coahuila, Mexico, have begun fundraising efforts.

"I think Adrian is a shining example to all of us, the way he is fighting for his life, the way he comes back, fighting and smiling, that gives us the faith to do this, and I'm proud to be his friend," said Veraza.

"Once you meet Adrian, you see he's a very nice boy who may not understand all the money issues involved in his case," said Sei. "We are trying to keep his spirits up. I gave him a video game and it made him the happiest boy in the world."

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Donate to the "Adrian Needs a Heart" fund at any Wells Fargo Bank branch in San Antonio.

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