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Softball tourney aims to benefit ailing woman

Tracy and Gayle Bolton face huge expenses for treatment of her brain cancer. The Feb. 19 event will help.

A fundraising effort to help a Brooksville woman's battle with brain cancer hopes to get a boost from a charity softball tournament scheduled for Feb. 19.

Tracy Bolton was diagnosed with a malignant tumor two years ago and has endured two surgeries, radiation treatments and chemotherapy. Her husband, Gayle, hopes a controversial treatment from a doctor in Texas can succeed where conventional medicine has failed. The treatments are costly, though recent fundraisers have helped the family get more than halfway to its initial cost of $20,000.

"We've had an overwhelming response to all of this," Gayle Bolton said Wednesday. "Brooksville has been very good to us."

The softball tournament, which will be held at the Hernando County Family YMCA on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill, will have a double-elimination, one-pitch format. The deadline for entering a team is Feb. 10, with a fee of $110 and two balls per team.

"We already have six teams lined up and should have as many as 10 by the end of the week," said Tim Coleman, who works at the YMCA's teen center and is organizing the tournament. He said the field could expand to 20 teams, if not more, because the one-pitch games go by quickly.

Coleman said he met Gayle and Tracy and their sons, Matthew, 7, and Joshua, 6, at the Golden Corral restaurant where he works, and set up the tournament after learning of her struggle to beat the tumor.

"When I first heard about what she's been through, I was just heartbroken," Coleman said. "I decided I would lend a hand. If my wife or girlfriend were going up against something like this, I'd want all the help I could get."

Gayle Bolton, 33, has set up a trust fund for his wife, a former waitress at Denny's in Ridge Manor West. While the fund had less than $1,000 in it a month ago, recent fundraisers have pushed it to more than $10,300. A car wash in the Golden Corral parking lot two weeks ago raised about $3,000 in proceeds and donations.

"I bet we washed 200 cars that day," said Bolton, a diesel mechanic for Florida Crushed Stone. "One man from Spring Hill gave us a check for $1,000, and another donated $500."

Coleman said the car wash brought together friends and family, as well as several volunteers who wanted to donate their time.

"It was cold, definitely cold, but it worked out really well," Coleman said. "We had a lot of people come out for it, and it turned out to be a lot of fun."

A yard sale last week netted another $3,000 toward the cost of the treatment, and Bolton is hoping his wife can hold on long enough to get to Texas once the money is raised.

The treatment involves the use of "antineoplastons" _ proteins and amino-acid derivatives found in human blood that serve to "reprogram" cancer cells to stop dividing and to die like normal cells.

According to research at the Burzynski Research Institute, cancer patients have extremely low levels of antineoplastons (as little as 2 percent of normal levels). By increasing those levels, Burzynski claims to have brought about a positive response in more than 3,000 advanced cancer patients since his clinic opened in Houston in 1977.

The treatment has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but independent reviews, including one by the National Cancer Institute, have confirmed numerous remissions. For more information about the treatment, visit http://www.cancermed.com.

The results of Burzynski's treatment are impressive in that he is often a last resort, only after conventional medicine has been unable to slow down the cancer. Tracy Bolton, 29, spent three days in the hospital last week but was back home on Wednesday.

"We're so close now, and I've got the doctor's approval," Gayle Bolton said. "She's just got to get her strength back now that she's back home again."

The YMCA is donating its fields for the tournament, as well as umpires and use of lights if necessary, and has arranged for trophies to be given to the top three teams. Coleman said Publix will be donating food and drinks for participants.

Registration will begin at 8 a.m. on Feb. 19, but any teams interested in entering can call Coleman at (352) 597-5478. For information on donating to Bolton's trust fund, call (352) 797-0044.

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