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It’s like loaves and fishes: 4th annual Love Thy Neighbor Benefit March 18

Love Thy Neighbor event set for March 18

L to R, Parker, Ruby, Brooks in front, with Cassie and Zach behind. Submitted photo.

By David Freeze

Plenty of volunteers for the 4th Annual Love Thy Neighbor Benefit at Concordia Lutheran know that the bar has been set pretty high with the success from the first three years. Groups at Concordia and Trinity Lutheran Churches have been hard at work planning for a huge community breakfast, a silent auction and 5K and 10K runs all on March 18. All this effort goes to benefit Zach Thompson, a young father of twins and a three month old baby. He is a communications teacher at South Rowan High School.

Thompson began having extremely painful headaches in August of 2016. A subsequent CT scan revealed a baseball sized mass on his brain. A hasty surgery to remove the mass found the tumor to be a glioblastoma, one of the most serious of brain cancers. Since his initial diagnosis, Zach has completed radiation and multiple rounds of chemotherapy. He is currently enrolled in a clinical trial at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University Medical Center.

Glioblastomas are the most common primary brain tumors in adults and account for 12-15% of all brain tumors. Primary means the tumor starts in the brain rather than spreading from cancer elsewhere in the body. Primary glioblastomas are typically found in older people—the average age being 62 years.

Zach and his family have truly been buoyed by the support from the students and staff at South Rowan High School, along with family, friends and the community. Cassie, Zach’s wife, said, “He is such a private person and has struggled with letting us share this part of his life. He prefers to be on the giving side of things. But we are so overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from the community.”

“How did they pick us?” said Zach when he first heard of the benefit. Jason Ritchie, one of the organizers of Love Thy Neighbor, replied, “God kept leading us toward you. We knew about you from others in the community. God has pushed us all together!”

Through all of this, Zach continues to teach at South Rowan. He attends Stallings Memorial Baptist Church in Salisbury, where he serves as a deacon and Sunday school teacher. Born in Rowan County, Zach lived in Churchland briefly before moving to Granite Quarry as a youngster and eventually graduating from East Rowan High.

Lorraine Nicely and Paula Sloop from Trinity Lutheran head up the silent auction. Nicely said, “It is just like the parable of the loaves and fishes. We don’t think we have enough items and then we are overwhelmed with everything coming in. The donations just keep on coming once they start. Last year, we had about 140 items and 500 people here. The silent auction ends at 11 a.m. and right about 11:15, all the volunteers will just collapse.”

Ritchie and Crystal Karriker, another original Love Thy Neighbor organizer, head up non-competitive 5K and 10K runs that leave from Concordia and tour the surrounding scenic country roads. Atwell Fire Department keeps the runners safe while on the course. Karriker said, “We had close to 350 runners and walkers last year. Thank the Lord that we are all able to run it. There will be plenty of barn quilts along the way.” Russell Foster makes awards for the top overall finishers.

Breakfast starts at 7 a.m. with the Starnes family providing all the cooking. Most of the food has been donated. Ritchie suggests arriving early for the breakfast to watch the runs or just miss the traffic, but adds that he hopes people will stay all morning. Breakfast is served until 11 and runners eat free with their registration. Others eat breakfast for a donation. Breakfast sponsors include Alexander Ham and Frank Corriher Meats.

The Thompson family expressed their sincere gratitude. Zach said, “These things happen in people’s lives. This support is proof of God’s existence but totally unexpected for us. How could anybody question Him after all that is being done for us with His love showing through the kindness of others?” The Thompsons continue to rely on their faith and keep their trust in God. They pray that no matter what happens, to God will always be the glory.

Ritchie added, “And you can remember in your darker times that all these hundreds came out to help you. Zach, this is going to be your day!”

“You shall love thy neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than this.” Mark 12:31

Concordia Lutheran Church is located at 185 Concordia Church Road. To donate or for more information go to www.facebook.com/LoveThyNeighborRace or by calling Ritchie at 704-202-4975.

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