Your Story: Sports Bar Owner has Helped Others Battle Cancer for Years. Now, He Faces His Own Battle

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“Your Story” is a series from FOX40’s Eric Harryman that explores extraordinary people who have turned the tables on fate and created success stories in unlikely places.

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SACRAMENTO -- For Jay Jugoz, Riverside Sports Bar in Sacramento was his big break.

"Owning a bar-restaurant has been a dream of mine,” he told FOX40.

That dream became a vehicle for something much more impactful.

“A lot of my family members have cancer or have passed from cancer," Jugoz explained.

To honor them, Jugoz's bar transformed into a fundraising machine for St. Baldrick's Childhood Cancer Research Charity.

"Get people to sign up to shave their heads for solidarity," Jugoz said.

And that they did.

The donations seemed to come easy. At least $20,000 has been donated to St. Baldrick’s as a result of years of fundraising.

"Jay’s event, that money can help a child clear across on the east coast or in another country," said Robyn Raphael, who heads up corporate relations for St. Baldrick’s.

Raphael told FOX40 the foundation is 100% volunteer funded. So, without people like Jugoz, there would be no foundation.

"Jay’s incredible dedication to the foundation over the eight years is just an amazing story in and of itself," Raphael said.

But another story was brewing -- and no one saw it coming.

"I was just diagnosed this past June with stage 4 pancreatic cancer," Jugoz told FOX40.

“Everything stops moving. Everything stops moving."

The initial prognosis was six months to a year.

Jugoz said telling his family was hard but telling his 12-year-old daughter was crushing.

"I had to reassure her that her daddy is a fighter and I'm going to continue. Just keep going, you know?" he said.

Michael Velarde has been Jugoz's best friend since high school. He said the diagnosis was a shock but there was something else.

“He’s doing all these good fundraisers and doing all this fundraising for cancer at St. Baldrick’s and he ends up being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in June of this year. It’s cruel irony," Velarde told FOX40.

"I never thought of about getting anything from anyone,” Jugoz said. “I was trying to focus on trying to give to other people. As so, but now I have to be the one asking."

Chemo treatments are buying him more time. But buying those treatments, even with insurance, is off the charts expensive.

And limited time means making the most of the time you have.

“Jay's last wishes. One of my last wishes was to go on vacation with my daughter one last time," Jugoz said.

For everyone else, Jugoz's advice comes from words he lived by while chasing his dream of opening a bar that served his community much more than just drinks.

"If you’ve got a dream go for it, even if you get it for 10 seconds or you get it for a year or two years. No matter what it is, go for it. Fight for it," he said.

Because you never know, that dream just might come full circle.

"I wouldn't change anything about my life at all,” Jugoz said. “Well, except for getting cancer, I would definitely change that part."

This Sunday, Aug. 18, from 3 p.m. to closing, will be Jugoz's Toys and Tips Drive at Riverside Sports Bar. Donated new toys will go to Shriners Hospitals for Children. The tips will go toward making sure Jugoz's wishlist happens.

If you can't make it, drop toys off at Harley-Davidson locations, Nick Sadek Sotheby's International Realty or Vintage Soul in Elk Grove.


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