BARSTOW • An emergency room nurse at Ft. Irwin will find out Monday if she has leukemia. For her mother and her grandfather, a man who has battled and beaten cancer, giving back seems fitting right now.

Pete Esquivel, 82, was inspired to donate to Thomson Elementary's Pennies for Patients fundraiser Friday after reading an article called "Collecting Change" in Monday's edition of the Desert Dispatch.

The article detailed the successful efforts of Thomson students in donating money to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma society. The donations were collected mostly in change, to the tune of more than $1,000.

Esquivel has been prostate cancer-free since 2004. A Barstow resident since 1950, he worked for BNSF railroad for 40 years and served in the Army during the Korean War, he said.

His daughter Pat is mother to ER nurse Crystal Robinson, and she knows how "extra special" it is for Crystal's grandfather to contribute to this particular cause.

As she waited for Crystal's test results — surely a nerve-wracking endeavor — she found a little peace in reflection Friday morning.

"I went to school (at Thomson)," she said, "and cancer has a lot to due with our family," explaining that Crystal had previously been diagnosed with ovarian cancer while pregnant in 2006.

Pete and Pat delivered a jar of loose and rolled change and small bills to first-grade teacher Ginger O'Brien inside her classroom. O'Brien organized the fundraiser and is a cancer survivor herself.

She has been in remission for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma since 2007.

"I'd guess there's 50 to 60 dollars there," Pat Esquivel said while waiting in the lobby of the Thomson office, peering inside the red-capped jar from a short distance.

"Oh, no, more than that," Pete Esquivel responded. "Closer to 100 or maybe over."

It didn't matter. The message in this fundraiser, assured by O'Brien and Principal Theresa Gonzales' appreciation, is that every little bit helps.

Visit for more information on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at