He was a burly construction worker and a volunteer firefighter in the Pleasant Plains section of Toms River. Today, 51-year-old Everett McAllister is clinging to life and hope as a stage-four cancer patient. A benefit buffet Saturday in the township is aimed at helping him cover his soaring medical bills.

McAllister's plight has touched scores of his relatives, friends and acquaintances throughout Ocean County, especially in close-knit neighborhoods in Toms River, Beachwood and Bayville.

He's the father of two children and the youngest of nine brothers and sisters. The disabling disease has left his wife to be the family wage-earner. Insurance has paid much of his bills, but there is a gap of about $65,000 that's not disappearing.

"This is a crusade, this is my baby brother," says his sister Iva. "My brother saved so many lives. Maybe one of those people can help him now."

Family members are overseeing the dinner that runs from 3 'til 8 PM at the Masonic Harmony Lodge 18 on Route 37 West in Toms River. The building is just west of the Parkway and across the highway from Community Medical Center.

Admission is $15 for adults, $5 for children age 10 and younger. Tickets remain on sale until Friday.

Donations can also be mailed to:

Harmony Lodge

c/o Everett McAllister

Post Office Box 654

Toms River, NJ 08754

To find out more, call 609-971-1158.