She's never met Joey Conti in person. But that doesn't matter to Kelly Ibarra. All she knows is that Joey, an 18-year-old Dayton High School graduate, is sick and that she is going to help.
"To be honest, I don't know if it was God talking to me or what," she said, "but my heart felt compelled to help this family."
Ibarra, the outreach coordinator for the Alzheimer's Association, is planing a spaghetti feed from 3-7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Carson City Senior Citizens Center to raise money for Conti's treatment.
"I read the article in the paper about him, and something in my heart told me I needed to help," she said. "The way I knew that I could do it, is try and put together a fund-raiser."
Conti, who has chronic myeloid leukemia, attended the same high school as Ibarra's daughter, Shaunte. That is her only connection to him, but Ibarra's family, including her husband, Joe; mom, Cookie Radke; Shaunte; two of Shaunte's friends; son, Jeremy Radke, and his wife, Jessica, and others have volunteered to make spaghetti.
"I've never cooked this much before, but my mom has always been one to cook for an army, and I took on that trait," Ibarra said.
Conti, who lives in Dayton with his parents, Robin and Joseph David Conti, wanted to go into the Army. But when he became ill this past year, boot camp - scheduled for June 5 - was no longer an option.
"This kid, he's so brave," said his dad. "He goes to work every day, sick or not. People that know him at the places he's working tell him he's really the best employee they've had. I'm just so proud of him for accomplishing that."
With chronic myeloid leukemia, too many white blood cells are made in the bone marrow and blood. Treatment for CML is a bone marrow transplant or chemotherapy, which Conti has been taking orally daily.
Two days a week, he goes to work at Stew's Sportatorium in Dayton. He wanted to work five days, but they cut his hours back.
"You know, Joey, he doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke, he doesn't do drugs, but he is really a cool kid," his dad said. "I really admire him so much. I wish that I was as cool as him when I was that age. I admire him, and I respect him, and he's my son, and I'm thinking 'Wow, I produced a kid like that.'"
Tickets to the spaghetti feed are $5 and there's a limit of 328. The tickets were printed by Data Graphics in Mound House. The Sierra Bakery is providing cakes for the event. Alpine Insurance is covering the cost of insurance at the senior center, which donated the space.
Karaoke will be available, with all donations going to the Conti family, as will the costs of the dinner tickets and raffle tickets, which are $1 each. Raffle prizes will be drawn on the hour with some coming from Cactus Jacks, Little People Portraits, Bella Salon and Comstock Pizza, Compadres and Pizza Factory in Dayton. There will also be a silent auction.
Ibarra is looking for people to donate paper items for the evening. She will also have a poster for people to write messages to Conti. His dad hopes the family will be able to attend.
"If we're here, you betcha (we're going)," he said. "God bless that lady. "
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.