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Loaves and Fishes: Churches set Love Thy Neighbor fundraiser

By David Freeze for the Salisbury Post

Saturday, March 21 • 7 a.m.

Jason Ritchie is part of the small group of planners from Concordia and Trinity Lutheran Churches who pull off one of Rowan’s biggest fundraisers each year. This year’s Love Thy Neighbor is the 7th annual and organizers hope to raise close to $30,000, just ahead of the event’s average over the last six years. The 2020 recipient is Crystal Wing, who is battling stage lV colon cancer. She hopes to be on hand on March 21 at Concordia Lutheran Church for all the fun.

Often during those past six years, Ritchie has been concerned about having enough. Enough space, enough breakfast staples and enough auction items. He said, “I worry each year, especially when those auction items come in late. But its just like the parable of loaves and fishes, somehow we always have enough. As long as we have plenty of participation, we will be OK.”

Organizers became aware of Crystal Wing when they explored possibilities for this year’s recipient. Ritchie said, “We had four names; we prayed over them and we kept coming back to Crystal. Our goal is to make this Saturday one of Crystal’s best days ever.”

Crystal was diagnosed on her 35th birthday in 2018 with stage lV colon cancer and she has since been battling the disease for nearly three years. Crystal said, “I kept thinking that I had leftover pregnancy issues. I had rectal bleeding, unusual bowel habits and lots of nausea.” Surgery to remove the tumor from her colon resulted in the cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy. A liver biopsy also came back as cancerous. Two liver abscesses resulted, and drains were required. Crystal’s cancer treatment was then transferred to Duke University Hospital.

The liver cancer continued to grow and radioactive seeds were placed in the tumors. Nodules were found on Crystal’s lungs. A CT scan done in January, 2020, found that the cancer had spread to the lungs and lymph nodes in the abdomen while the cancer grew in the liver. A new three-month chemotherapy plan has recently been started and new scans will follow.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the US. People with a close relative who has colon cancer will have 2-3 times the normal risk of developing the disease. About 90% of new cases occur in people 50 years of age and older. There are currently more than one million colon cancer survivors in the US.

Crystal is now 36 years of age and has been married to Daniel for 16 years. They have a beautiful two-year-old daughter named Rose. Crystal has recently taken leave from her work at Atrium Health in Concord where she’s employed as a CNA in the internal pulmonary department. With her immune system compromised, doctors advised Crystal not to work during flu season. She continues to experience nausea and other stomach issues. Her medical bills are overwhelming, although she wants to work as much as possible to continue her health insurance.

Ritchie has plenty of help for the Love Thy Neighbor event. Paula Sloop and Lorraine Nicely plan the silent auction that runs from 7-11 a.m. At least 15-20 cakes, some that go for $100 each, are part of the silent auction. Breakfast, cooked by the Starnes family, is also available from 7-11 a.m. by donation. Breakfast includes eggs, grits, juice, biscuits and likely will feed close to 1,000 people. Nicely refers to this part of the event as “organized chaos!”

New this year is a raffle for a 52-inch Bobcat zero turn mower. Tickets for the mower are $100 with only 200 to be sold. Raffles for a chainsaw and weedeater will also take place.

A 5K and 10K race will start at Concordia at 8am. Both courses are out and back through the rolling countryside of the Atwell Township community. A kids’ fun run starts at 10 a.m. Special awards for the top male and female in each race are made by Russell Foster and will be presented at 10:45 a.m. All runners get breakfast. The Atwell Volunteer Fire Department keeps the runners safe on the country roads. Information on the races is available at salisburyrowanrunners.org and online registration is at runsignup.com

Ritchie said, “Each year, we have the churches of the past Love Thy Neighbor recipients get involved to help. I’m not going to worry so much this time. We will make Saturday the best day for Crystal and her family. The Lord will lead us where we need to go to do that. I know that He will handle it!”

To volunteer or make donations, call Ritchie at 704-202-4975. Concordia Lutheran Church is located at 185 Concordia Church Road, China Grove.

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

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