Teri’s Vance: Fundraiser set to help Willow Bill fight cancer

Willow Bill was a friend to Diana Bracy when she was desperately in need of one.

“We became friends 30 years ago in Yerington,” Bracy recalled. “It was at a time in my life when everybody in my life was walking out. He walked in, and he stayed. He was my friend through thick and thin.”

Now, it’s her turn to show up for him in his time of need.

Bracy was one of the first people Willow Bill confided in after receiving his diagnosis this month of stage four colon cancer.

Almost immediately, she created a Go Fund Me account to help him offset medical costs and is working to organize a benefit concert.

“I worry about him,” she said. “He won’t ask for help. I knew I had to do it for him.”

William “Willow Bill” Goulardt has become a well-known figure in Carson City as he’s visited classrooms for more than 20 years making willow reindeer with students.

It started in his son’s pre-kindergarten as a way to connect with his little boy and his friends. It has since grown to around 50,000 children in Pleasant Valley, Carson City and Douglas County.

Once completed, the reindeer wrapped in red, white and blue Christmas lights and installed in front of 250 businesses and along Highway 395 for a 65-mile-long art project from Gardnerville to Reno.

The reindeer are also placed in front of the Capitol as well as around the state tree on the Capitol grounds.

Bracy said the donations to the fundraiser are crucial, but so has been the support from people who have been a part of Willow Bill’s life.

“As he reads people’s comments, it’s boosting him,” she said. “It’s helping him fight. It’s giving back to someone who has done so much for the community and for the kids.”

She sees his impact on the community at large and also at the individual level.

“Every time I come in contact with Willow, it changes my life for the better,” she said. “I can’t imagine a world without Willow, honestly. If we all patterned our lives after Willow Bill, the world would be a much better place.”

Willow Bill has received recognition from Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Dean Heller, D-Nev. Gov. Brian Sandoval declared Dec. 2-9 to be Willow Bill Reindeer Week.

In a previous column I wrote, Willow Bill said the accolades are nice, but he has a greater motivation.

“How fun is that? To be an elf?” he asked. “That’s what I consider myself. I work for Santa and the kids of our community.”

He is determined to defeat his disease.

“I’m in high spirits,” he said. “I’m going to beat this.”

Bracy believes he can.

“If anybody can beat this, it will be Willow Bill — with the support and encouragement from all of us,” she said. “The world needs Willow. And, right now, he needs us.”

To learn more or to donate to Willow Bill, go to gf.me/u/t66w9s.


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