At the age of 44, Raul Blasini's life forever changed. A translator in the U.S. Army, Blasini was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"That's the reason they retired me from the Army," he said.
Since that time, Blasini has worked hard to educate men about the dangers of the disease. He created a prostate cancer support group in Region 8 in 2002. That same year, he started a health fair in the community of Pocahontas. Randolph county has been his home now for 17 years. His involvement in the community led to his being nominated for the Gr8 Acts of Kindness by Juanita Palmer, a member of his church.
With the help of Jackie Salyards, director of the Randolph County Library, a plan was made to get Blasini to make a stop at the library on a Thursday afternoon. KAIT cameras would be waiting to capture it all!
Friends, neighbors, First Community Bank personnel and just about everyone who knew and loved Raul Blasini converged on the streets of Pocahontas to make one big surprise party. They all snuck in the front door while Blasini was talking with Salyards in the library's basement. Then, he was led upstairs to the waiting crowd.
"Surprise!" Townspeople beamed as Blasini stood with a look of shock on his face.
"Do you have any idea why all of these people are here?" I said to Blasini.
"Looking at you, I have some idea," said Blasini.
"You are the next winner in the Gr8 Acts of Kindness!" I said. He shook his head in disbelief.
"We work together. My community is family," Blasini said. "We are blessed."
But the blessings for Pocahontas came about the time Blasini moved to the area in the year 2000.
"If we didn't have Raul, I don't know where we'd be," Cecil Tackett, Pocahontas Police Chief said. Tackett went on to explain that Blasini was a valuable link to the Hispanic community.
"He's a translator," Chief Tackett said. "We use him for translating. He's came out on the roadsides with us when we were having trouble communicating and he saved the day for us."
When floodwaters rose up in Pocahontas this spring, Blasini dropped everything to cook and man the shelter there—sometimes working 16 and 17 hour days.
"He did more than his part," Salyards said.
Salyards works with Blasini on library projects and she's witnessed first-hand how his desire to help children in the area grew into the "Back2School Backpack" event, which serves students beyond Randolph County.
"The police department comes over and does fingerprinting," Salyards said. "The EMT's come over. They have a booth. 4-H has a booth. Five to eight beauty operators set up and stay until the last child gets a haircut. The do eye tests."
"We gave away 582 backpacks this year," Blasini said.
He works nearly year round getting volunteers and supplies. Then, he brings it all together in one big event.
"I love it," Blasini said. "It's my passion."
Whether it's helping on a large scale or small, Blasini always finds a way to help others.
"Miss Mary, we go to church together," Blasini said. "One Sunday, she asked me to take her to Walmart. Just one day, I thought. Seven years later, I still do it every other Monday."
Blasini also works to save lives. He is a 20-year prostate cancer survivor.
"It can get into your bladder," William Smith, a prostate cancer survivor said. "It can get into your bones."
William Smith has worked with Blasini for years on promoting prostate cancer screening and a support group for men dealing with the disease.
"I met Raul several years ago," Michael Davis said. "He was very involved in the health screening here in Randolph County. He's the one that got that started." Michael Davis owes his life to that screening.
"If I hadn't have sent, if I hadn't have gotten that screening, I probably would have had a lot of problems before I realized that I had any cancer."
Now, that health fair, which Blasini started, has grown. Black River Technical College (BRTC) has taken it over.
"He starts things and then he kind of hands them off to somebody else," Salyards said.
And then he's on to solve another problem. It's the sign of a good and faithful servant.
"Thank you for all that you do," Allen Williams, Community President at First Community Bank said. And then there's the cash! It's $408 dollars.
"This is my community family," Blasini said. He wipes away tears. "I open my mouth and they are right here."
He marvels at the support from his community and wipes away more tears.
"We love Raul," Juanita Palmer said. She nominated Blasini for the Gr8 Acts of Kindness. "He's just special. He just does stuff for people and he doesn't expect anything in return," Palmer said. "That's just him He's a part of everyone's life and definitely will always be there."
Blasini also volunteers his time with the Randolph County Ministerial Alliance, the Randolph County Salvation Army, the "Shop with a Cop" program for area children and board member of the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation.