Christopher “Cale” Wooten lost an almost eight-month battle with cancer early Saturday morning, passing away just two days after his 20th birthday.
“He was a very loving and talented young man. God has gained a special angel,” said Terri Burcik, a cousin of Wooten’s mother..
Wooten, a Murray County native, joined the U.S. Army in October 2012. While on leave and visiting his mother in Virginia in December, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood cells. The cancerous cells accumulate in the bone marrow, crowding out the production of healthy blood cells.
“He’d gotten a busted lip in basic, and when he got home they saw it was not getting better. It was getting worse. That’s when he went to the doctor and was diagnosed,” said Burcik.
Wooten received a bone marrow transplant from his mother in May but his body did not accept the transplant.
Hundreds of family members, friends, neighbors and complete strangers gathered at the Charles “Judy” Poag Senior Center in Chatsworth last Thursday to help Wooten celebrate his birthday and to honor his battle with a blood drive and bone marrow registration.
“I was totally impressed by the care and compassion that people have shown to Cale and to his family,” Burcik said.
Friends and relatives held another event back in January.
“That was wonderful,” said Kelly Cofield, who helped organize the blood drives. “I was the lab manager for Murray Medical Center at the time. We had 127 units of blood donated, and we had 105 people who registered as bone marrow donors. That set a record for us.”
Friends and family had scheduled balloon releases in Wooten’s honor Saturday evening at the old Murray County recreation center in Chatsworth and at Gordon Central High School, which Wooten graduated from, in Calhoun. They went ahead with those plans after learning of his death.
“We did it as a life celebration. It was very beautiful, very moving, and we raised some money to help the family,” Burcik said. “This is just a guess, but I think about 120 people showed up (in Chatsworth). Two Marines came out to pay their condolences. It was very rewarding to know that so many people, some of whom didn’t even know Cale, came out to show their respect for him and their support for his family.”