EAST LIVERPOOL - Those at the front line of any battle come to rely upon the support of supply troops to keep them armed and nourished so they can continue to hold their ground and maintain the fight, as heart transplant candidate Dan Williams, his wife Mary and son Zach are discovering.
Williams, 58, of East Liverpool has been on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) list to receive a heart for a little more than a year, and nearly each day of the journey has been something of a roller-coaster ride of emotion for all members of the family. Since April, however, they have been bolstered by Dan's Bravehearts, a group that has formally come alongside not only to lend emotional and financial support to the Williams family, but also to promote organ donation and encourage individuals to register to become donors.
Crystal Geer of Wellsville, a co-organizer of Dan's Bravehearts along with Kelsie Sevey of Calcutta, explained that the group grew out of a close circle of families that first became acquainted years ago through their children's foray into youth soccer.
Dan’s Bravehearts stand together in support of Dan Williams (second row, fourth from left). Dan has been on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) list to receive a heart for a little more than a year. (Submitted photo)
"I don't think any of us realized when we were first signing our children up to play recreational soccer, we were signing on for lifelong friendships," Geer said of what has become a core group consisting of the Geer, Jackson, Jordan, Parker, Sevey and Williams families. With their children playing on recreational and traveling teams the individual families began to interact and friendships have been forged over the course of the last nine years, she explained.
"Mary and Dan are good, kind folks, who always are willing to help others," she added, "and we wanted to be able to help them through this. The expense of prescriptions and the frequent trips to and from Pittsburgh the cost of gas and food can really add up and take a toll on a family's finances. And that's just leading up to the transplant afterward, there's certain to be even more," she added.
A yard sale sponsored by the group July 5-6 netted $663 for the effort.
The organization's focus now shifts to a benefit spaghetti dinner at Elks Lodge 258 in East Liverpool, which will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 16. A Chinese auction featuring a variety of items including tickets to both an upcoming Pittsburgh Pirates game as well as a Cleveland Indians' game, a raffle and a 50-50 drawing also are part of the benefit event. A cornhole tournament is to follow the dinner. The cost of the event is $7 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Advance tickets are available as are carry-out orders. Tickets also will be available at the door.
The menu includes spaghetti and meatballs, salad, a dinner roll and dessert.
Williams family members note they are overwhelmed by the support they have received through Dan's Bravehearts. Their own family members, friends and co-workers are among those sporting the red t-shirts throughout the tri-state area.
Through Facebook Dan has received communication and encouragement from Chelsea Lingenfelter's parents, Jodi and Steve Logston, which has touched him deeply. After fighting a courageous battle, Chelsea died in February during a liver transplant surgery.
Also through Facebook Dan has befriended a Georgia resident with local ties who has successfully undergone a heart transplant. "He and his family also have encouraged us, and he is doing fine, which brings us hope," said Mary Williams.
The Dan's Bravehearts page has more than 200 likes so far and offers interested individuals the opportunity to lend encouragement and find out more about the organization and its upcoming events, such as a candle sale being planned for the fall.
Monetary donations also may be made to: Dan's Bravehearts, C/O PNC Bank, 49161 Oakmont Ave., East Liverpool OH 43920.