By Krissi Khokhobashvili, CDCR PIO, OPEC
Photos courtesy Correctional Officer Danny Condon
When Danny and Crystal Condon’s 6-month-old daughter was under the weather, they took her to the doctor expecting to receive medicine and orders to rest, not a diagnosis that would change every aspect of the young family’s lives.
“She’s just a little baby,” says Baylee “Bo” Condon’s dad, Correctional Officer Danny Condon. The disbelief is still apparent in his voice four months after the diagnosis, although by now the family members have become pros at the “cancer life” – hospital stays, chemotherapy, endless medications, transfusions, surgeries and constant uncertainty.
“This whole situation going forward is so unpredictable,” Condon said. Baylee, now 10 months old, is fighting a rare and aggressive form of leukemia. And while childhood leukemia has a high remission rate, Condon pointed out those successes are for children age 2 to 10. In Baylee’s case, he said, “There are no guarantees.”
Crystal and Danny Condon received Baylee’s diagnosis in December 2016. The next six weeks were a blur of treatment, with Baylee enduring poking, prodding, bone marrow extractions and 35 straight days of chemotherapy.
“The hospital has definitely become a second home for us,” Condon said. “My wife didn’t come home once during that whole stretch – not even for a nap.”
Condon, who works at California State Prison-Sacramento (SAC), was able to take time off work under the Family and Medical Leave Act, enabling him to be there for Crystal and Baylee as well as Baylee’s sisters, Ava, 7, and Mya, 10. But that time only goes so far, and at only two years in with CDCR, he didn’t have enough leave time built up to account for the many hours needed.
Although he said his pride made it difficult to accept help at first, Condon quickly learned an important lesson about CDCR and the family that forms when people work together in law enforcement: People want to help.
Co-workers began offering to provide meals and other support for the family, and when they realized the Condons were going to spend Christmas in the hospital, they organized a toy drive to make sure Baylee, Ava and Mya received plenty of presents – so many, in fact, that the Condons paid it forward by donating many of those toys to children who needed them more.
SAC also quickly organized a catastrophic time bank, for which employees can donate their own leave time to a co-worker in need. Staff from prisons around the Sacramento area, including California Medical Facility and California State Prison-Solano, joined the cause to assist the Condons financially and through the time bank. Those hours, Condon noted, are priceless.
“This allowed me to be at the hospital, to be there for my older two daughters – I can’t even describe how much of a positive impact this has had for us,” he said. “Those hours are really appreciated, because I realize that it’s taking away time from people’s personal lives and their vacation time with their families. That was really, really cool. Obviously I could never pay back all those hours for them individually, but hopefully I’ll be in a position someday to pay it forward.”
A few months ago, Condon decided to have some silicone wristbands made for the family, brightly colored orange to raise awareness for childhood leukemia and stamped with the words “Fight With Bo” and “Bo Strong.” He gave a few of the bands to Correctional Officers C. Chavez and M. Sanchez, his partners at SAC, not realizing his friends would take the gesture to the next level. They rallied to have even more wristbands made, and began a fundraiser to help the Condons with the vast expenses associated with fighting cancer. Each $5 wristband helps the family with medical expenses not covered by insurance, in addition to travel, food and childcare.
“Donations for the wristbands are being accepted to assist the Condon family with their ensuing medical costs, and to show our Team SAC support,” the officers said in a joint statement. “One-hundred percent of the donations collected will go to the Condon family to assist with their fight against cancer.”
Lt. L.A. Quinn, Administrative Assistant/Public Information Officer at SAC, pointed out that while such generosity may seem extraordinary, it’s far from the first time SAC and CDCR employees have banded together to help a team member in need.
“Most people who work in law enforcement have a natural tendency to want to help others,” he said. “This desire is fueled when the person in need is a fellow co-worker. I am always proud of how the team pulls together to help those in need, not just within the SAC family but the general public as a whole. We wish nothing but health and happiness for the Condon family and I am proud of the team for pulling together and once again doing what SAC always does and that is support one another on and off the job in any way possible.”
As Baylee Bo and her family continue the fight, Danny and Crystal Condon are continually floored by the support they have received from family, friends and their CDCR family.
“We can’t express how thankful we are,” Officer Condon said. “I knew I worked for a large agency, but I didn’t realize the magnitude – the amount of people who would be involved or want to get involved, I really didn’t.
“As bad as it is and as challenging as it is, it could be far worse if our support group wasn’t as large as it is.”
HOW TO HELP: To purchase a “Bo Strong” wristband in support of the Condon family and Baylee’s fight against cancer, call Lt. L. A. Quinn at (916) 294-3012 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. A GoFundMe account has also been set up in support of Baylee at https://www.gofundme.com/fight-with-bo-bostrong.