A Harmony of Heart and Soul

By: 
Roberto Vazquez
LEFT TO RIGHT: Mike Torres, Molly Torres, Loren Thompson, Michael Torres, Caleb Bradfield, Calleigh Bradfield, Christine Bradfield and Brenda Tubbs meet at Millikan High School.

Michael Torres was born for music.

When Torres was in the womb, his response to music was very surprising to his mother, Molly Torres, who was once a dancer and later, a dance competition judge, including during her pregnancy. She said, “He would not stop moving.” As a small child, his budding talents became more apparent.

“We used to sing nursery rhymes and stuff. Michael listened once or twice and knew every word.” She added, “Hannah (his sister) said, ‘He’s like a radio, Mom. How does he know all the words?’ And he did. So, we started calling him, ‘Radio’.”

These days, the UCLA bound Millikan High senior says, “My passion is live performing. That’s the dream, being able to engage and interact with crowds. I love to make people happy.” While Torres is still performing, now it’s for a cause near and dear to his heart.

His new song, “Dear Riley,” is a project told from the point of view of a parent with a sick child. The song is available as a free download at www.michaelttorres.com, in honor of the Childhood Cancer Club at Millikan High School.

A Seed Grows

Mike Torres is a man who can’t hide his paternal pride. He smiles easily and often, always positive in his disposition.

It was Mike’s cancer experience that led to Hannah Torres’ decision to do research on cancer, eventually co-creating the Childhood Cancer Club with her classmate, Raul Melchor.

The two approached Christine Bradfield to be their club’s advisor. Bradfield, a biology and anatomy teacher at Millikan, agreed. At the time, her son, Caleb, was battling childhood cancer.

“It was a natural fit, since Caleb was already undergoing one full year of treatment.” Bradfield said. She added, “I felt like I was in a position to guide them with resources and people.”

Hannah Torres, who will graduate from UC Berkeley in 2023 with a degree in media studies, noted, “High school students are never given enough credit for the compassion and empathy they have for the world around them.”

The CCC is now co-led by Loren Thompson and Ashlyn Woolwine. Thompson, whose mother is a cancer survivor, has been co-president since taking over for Torres and Melchor. She is also co-drum major with Michael Torres in the school band and will pursue a degree in psychology at CSULB.

Thompson, who serves as a National Youth Childhood Cancer Ambassador with the American Cancer Society said, “Cancer is inevitable in this day and age. Everyone either has a direct connection or knows someone who does.”

Alarming Statistics Emerge

According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, among children, cancer is the number one cause of death, yet less than 5% of all government funded research is currently allotted for the specific purpose of finding childhood cancer cures.

Childhood cancer is not one disease; there are more than 12 types of pediatric cancers and over 100 subtypes. Approximately 47 children per day receive a cancer diagnosis.

According to Children’s Cancer Cause, more than 13.5 million cases of childhood Cancer will occur by 2050.

And yet, funding remains elusive, as the pharmaceutical industry refuses to invest money in expensive, time-consuming research for new, childhood cancer drugs, deeming it not cost-effective.

Community Service Game Changer

When Brenda Tubbs arrived from Texas less than a year ago as the new teacher in the Millikan High Quest program, she brought with her a strong faith in community service.

Tubbs, Dr. Wendolyn Nolasco and the Millikan administration modified this year’s Quest senior research project to include a community service component, something Michael Torres referred to as, “a game changer.”

Torres added, “Before Ms. Tubbs … some people would renovate cars, do magazines, literally anything they wanted to do.”

The community service component made Torres think about the best way to make an impact.

Molly Torres recalled, “We were talking one night, and I asked him, ‘What groups do you have a connection to? What do you feel something about?’” He replied, “The cancer club at Millikan.”

In addition to Marching Band, Torres sang in two choirs and played in Jazz Band for three years. He sings and is largely a self-taught musician, playing half a dozen instruments.

He noted, “The senior project has been important. It’s taught me how to be independent; I grew.”

More importantly, Torres added, “Communication is really powerful, but especially with music. It’s a universal language. Being able to discover my voice and be able to amplify other voices through the arts is the big takeaway.”

A Powerful Dude

“It all begins with Caleb,” says Mike Torres.

His daughter, Hannah, says Caleb Bradfield is, “the spirit that started the whole thing.”

Since its creation, the CCC has done a great deal of community organizing, promoting cancer awareness and cancer testing, and holding special events such as Relay for Life and toy donations to Miller’s Children’s Hospital.

When Michael Torres first played his song for Christine Bradfield, she was very moved, to say the least. Torres named the song after Caleb but the younger Bradfield preferred the name be changed to “Riley.”

When she later asked him “Who is Riley?” Caleb was confused. He’d said, “Rayleigh”, an anime character.

“Is he a bad guy?” she asked.

Caleb Bradfield replied, “No, he’s a powerful dude.” Indeed, just like Caleb Bradfield.

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