Wearing “Gooch Attack – Fight Like Hell” T-shirts, more than 75 people gathered at Benson High School’s track Saturday morning in a show of support for Albert Fernandez, affectionately known as “Gooch.”
Fernandez, 39, is a Benson native who now lives in South Dakota and is suffering from Stage 4 lung cancer. As an athlete and someone who has never smoked, this college softball coach and admissions counselor for Mount Marty College in Yankton, S.D., does not fit the typical profile for lung cancer.
During the “Gooch Attack” 5-K community fundraiser, approximately $7,000 was raised for Fernandez, money that will go toward escalating medical expenses he has incurred during his treatments.
“Albert and I have been best friends since 1987,” said Allen Mims, one of the event organizers. “When I found out he had lung cancer, I was completely shocked. I really wanted to do this for him.” Mims also said he got “great sponsorships” from local businesses and was pleased with the community participation.
Another friend, Rosanna Costello, said, “Albert is going to attack this one day at a time. He believes we’re in control of our attitude and that staying positive is an important part of this battle.”
Looking around at the turnout, Matt McKinnon, a good friend of Fernandez’s and one of the event organizers, said, Albert and I went to school together. I’m very pleased by all the people who came out here today in a show of support for him.”
Albert is the son of long-time residents Delia and Albert Fernandez and a graduate of Benson High School. His mother, a breast cancer survivor, is involved in Benson’s Relay for Life event, which will be on April 21 and 22. During a Relay kickoff, she spoke of her son’s battle and praised his fighting spirit and positive attitude. “He’s a fighter and we are confident he will defeat this,” she said.