Dutch Bros. offers loving cup for ailing customer
Merchants devote profits to assist man with leukemia
Stopping by his favorite coffee spot on Tuesday afternoon, Luis Lopez wears a surgical mask to guard his immune system compromised since June by a form of leukemia against airborne viruses.
When he moves the fabric barrier from his face to chat, his beaming smile and vivacious demeanor is disarming, particularly for a man discussing his weakened condition and need for a bone marrow transplant.
Sometimes I feel worthless, he confesses during his daily visit to Dutch Bros. Coffee on Southwest Hall Boulevard. I cant do much. I spend a lot more time at home and try to be with my family. Before, I had two jobs.
On Fathers Day last spring, Lopez, 41, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a form of leukemia in which bone marrow doesnt replenish sufficient new blood cells. Doctors at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center told Lopez he needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. A shunt on his left arm allows doctors to draw his blood for testing and administer short-term infusions.
On Monday, Lopez whose insurance doesnt cover the approximately $500,000 procedure will receive financial assistance from a familiar, if unlikely source. From its 5:30 a.m. opening to the 10 p.m. close, the Beaverton Dutch Bros. Coffee stand, 8940 S.W. Hall Blvd., at Washington Square Mall, will donate 30 percent of its gross sales toward Lopez fledgling medical fund.
Tina Thompson and Mike Gonzales, owners of the local java franchise, say the gesture is the least they could do for a loyal customer they regard as extended family.
Luis visits are pretty much a daily occurrence, Thompson says. We call each other la familia. Our families are similar, so we clicked right away. Were always screaming la familia! while hes in line.
The idea to help a customer was an outgrowth to broader-based fundraisers the Grants Pass-based coffee chain sponsors through its franchised outlets.
Dutch Bros. has (community-oriented) fundraisers, Thompson says. We thought, Wait, why didnt we think of this sooner? We do a lot of givebacks to the local community, but weve never done it for a personal friend. When its more personal, someone you know, theres more meaning that way.
Because Oregon Health Plan insurance doesnt cover what it considers elective surgery, the family is relying on online fundraising efforts and friends to help finance the procedure, says Lopez fiancÃ©, Tammy Flores. Without insurance, the transplant would cost as much as $500,000, not including the hospital stay or post-operative care at Oregon Health & Science University.
This is life or death for him, Flores says, noting the surgical procedure wont be scheduled until Lopez has insurance coverage or out-of-pocket payment. If we dont raise enough, hell have to leave the kids here and go home (to Guadalajara, Mexico). Were getting word it would cost $20,000 there. We talked with a social worker about how to help us send Luis down there.
Lopez seven children oversee fundraising efforts on websites they set up for him at everribbon.com, giveforward.com and celebratinghome.com. (see info box) He says he was moved beyond words when he heard about the Dutch Bros. offer.
I got very emotional. Ive been coming here for a long time and building relationships with Thompson and Gonzalez. Theyve always been very motivated people. I cant even put it into words, he says, choking up, but to just thank them.
Thompson plans to post signs outside the drive-through this weekend to make sure regular customers and passersby are aware of the daylong benefit at Dutch Bros.
Medical expenses are out of control, she says of Lopez plight. We hope we can make at least a dent. Were hoping people will rise to the occasion.
Lopez, who moved to the Beaverton area from Mexico 16 years ago, says hed prefer to be treated here with his children rather than return to Mexico for several months. Hes determined, however, to fight his illness and get back to supporting his family.
Someway, somehow, weve been able to keep it going, he says of this years ordeal. It gets hard sometimes.