Henry Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
For Jayson Castillo, his influence as a Spanish teacher at Masuk High School extends to the entire town as the Monroe community came together to raise money for his family after learning about his wife’s cancer diagnosis.
“The students, the staff, the parents all love him. He loves what he does and it shows,” parent Kimberly O’Leary said. “The students flourish in his class and those who are struggling, he takes the time to work with them so they are successful.”
Jayson’s wife, Darlene, was diagnosed with colon cancer in August. She is a 35-year-old speech pathologist in New Haven and the family has a 1-year-old son. Jayson said Darlene has dedicated the last 10 years of her life to working with special needs children and that “nobody works harder than her.”
He also said his family hadn’t expected Darlene’s colon cancer diagnosis.
“It really caught us off guard. There’s no prior history, no family history, no symptoms,” he said. “It was straight out of left field.”
While Darlene goes through “very vigourous” and “draining” treatments every two weeks, Jayson said, she’s handling it very well.
“She bounces back very quickly, she’s a fighter,” he said.
Despite the cancer diagnosis, Jayson said, the family is staying positive.
“She really is my best friend,” Jayson said. “Her laughter is contagious, her positive energy is contagious. I don’t know a single person that has ever had anything bad to say about her. I could gush about her all day.”
O’Leary has been working with the Masuk Football Club’s president, Melina Duignan, to raise money for the Castillo family through Masuk’s Tackle Cancer program.
Duignan said that for the past six years the Masuk football team has picked a local family affected by cancer to sponsor and raise money for. This year the team chose to sponsor the Castillo family, as many of the players had Jayson as a Spanish teacher and they just wanted to help his family.
“We like to support local families,” Duignan said.
Jayson spoke with The Courier about how amazed he is by the support he has received from the Monroe community.
“It’s moving. I never expected anything that they’ve been doing,” Jayson said. “The outpouring of love and support has been very overwhelming.”
He said the students had taken it upon themselves to conduct the fund-raisers and that students have also been giving his family cards, knitted blankets and prayers.
“It’s been amazing.”
While Jayson and his family live in Shelton, he said that the community’s kindness has made him feel “at home” in Monroe.
Duignan and O’Leary both said Jayson had taught their children and it was their sons who asked if Tackle Cancer could sponsor the Castillos.
O’Leary said the football team has been raising money for the family through T-shirt sales, ribbon sales and fund-raising events like the upcoming Night Out for the Castillos.
O’Leary said that local families and businesses have donated items to be raffled off throughout the evening, which includes music and appetizers. The event will be held on Nov. 12 at the Grill Room at the Stone Barn at 175 Shelton Road in Monroe at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be a fun evening to catch up with local families and support the Castillos,” Duignan said.
She said that the football team has raised $3,500 for the family but intends to raise $5,000 for the family.
O’Leary said her boys made blue ribbon pins that they gave to those who made donations to the Castillo family.
“I think the entire community got affected by this,” O’Leary said.
She said students outside of the football team have been working to raise money for the Castillos through coin collections and other fund-raisers around the school. The girls field hockey team has also been working to raise money for the family.
When O’Leary met with Jayson and Darlene at a previous fund-raiser, O’Leary said, she was inspired by the Castillo family’s strength.
“They said, ‘Don’t say you’re sorry for us. We’re going to beat this. It’s making us stronger.’ It’s amazing to see that they’re still so positive,” O’Leary said.
For more information about Night Out for the Castillos, call Melina Duignan at 203-610-3591. To purchase a Tackle Cancer shirt, stop by the office at Masuk High School or go to the Masuk Football Facebook page.