BARSTOW • Mark Sielski said he believes in Barstow.
The 48-year-old Barstow native said he views himself as a cheerleader to raise the self-esteem of the city.
"Once we can believe in ourselves then Barstow can become the city or town that it's meant to be," Sielski said.
Sielski was honored Monday night by the City Council who gave him the key to the city and named Feb. 6 Mark Sielski day.
Sielski said he was surprised by the honor.
Sielski has his hands in almost every social event as a former Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce president and director of the Holiday Meals outreaches. Sielski also serves as the vice president of the B.E.S.T. Opportunities board and is involved in the Mojave XP program through Barstow High School and the Career and Technical Training Institute at Barstow Community College.
Sielski won the Chamber of Commerce Community Awards for Man of the Year in 2009 and Up and Coming Volunteer in 2008.
Sielski has been overseeing the Holiday Meals outreach for six years, working with hundreds of volunteers to feed thousands of Barstow's needy for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.
"It's like coming to a big family reunion," Sielski said. "It's all about having a good time together as a family — and we are a family now — to help other people who need it. I feel so energized by the end of the day."
Sielski continues to coordinate this and other community events despite grappling with Castleman's disease, a rare auto-immune disease that affects the bones and the lymph nodes. Sielski said in addition to his treatments, he has to take a prescribed combination of heavy narcotics every day to ease the pain.
But he does not let this stop him.
"He's got a big heart," said DeeDe Crigler, whose volunteered with Sielski for Holiday Meals. "He cares about everyone. He wants to help everyone no matter how much pain he's in."
Locals have planned several fundraisers to raise money to help offset Sielski's medical costs. He estimates he spends about $100 monthly on co-pays for pain medication. This is not including costs for his treatment medication because he is receiving a grant from the Leukemia Lymphoma Society to pay for the $850 monthly co-pay.
The "Barstow Believes in You Too Mark" fundraiser will be having a concert at 9 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Hooz On 1st Sports Bar, 218 North First Ave.,, Crigler said. The event will feature a 50-50 drawing, a passing of the hat, and possible gift raffles. For more information visit the event's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/events/300773833305257.
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