Justin Barrick, of Carlisle, made a special appearance Saturday on the final day of the Newville Lions Club Fair for a blood drive benefiting the 30-year-old who was diagnosed at a young age with a condition halting his production of red blood cells.
The 2007 graduate of Big Spring High School is a full-time equipment operator. He came to the fair with his wife, Chelsey, along with his two children, Olivia, 9, and Cohan, 2.
“It’s an honor. It helps out, and I appreciate it,” Barrick said about effort.
Barrick was diagnosed with a condition called Aplastic Anemia, at age 5, and requires regular blood transfusions.
“I basically have no immune system, so any little virus can knock me down,” he said.
He said he tires easily, and will go to the hospital any time he has a fever.
However, recently as an adult, he has been diagnosed with a more severe version of the condition called MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndrome).
Barrick will have a bone marrow transplant at the end of the month. His hope is the transplant will cure him, so he no longer needs to visit the doctor regularly and does not need to take his prescribed medication.
The Central Penn Blood Bank had their blood collection vehicle at the fairgrounds. Five employees were present with three different stations for collecting blood. They expected about 17 donors, but said they were most likely to eclipse this number.
“They put their heads together, and asked what they could do for him, for us,” Chelsey said, adding it was great to see the coming together of support, and love during this time of need.
Sonny Chestnut of Newville quipped, “I got plenty of it,” when asked about his reason for continuing to donate blood. Tony Bretzman was another one of the generous donors, and said, “I feel I can help someone with my type O negative blood,” he said, noting O negative is a universal blood type that can be transfused with any blood type.
Barrick’s brother, Jeremy, also organized a Kickball Tournament in Carlisle Saturday to raise funds to support Barrick during these challenging times.
For Lions Club President Duane Wert, his favorite part was meeting Barrick in person.
“Putting a face to that name. It’s real life. He needs help, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
The Lions Club tailored their final day toward raising awareness for certain illnesses and conditions. The blood drive for Barrick was just one of those efforts. The club also organized its first-ever Diabetic Walk to bring awareness to diabetes, and scheduled an appearance from the Central Pennsylvania Ghostbusters, who use the popular film to bring awareness to autism.
“We called the Blood Bank, we called UPMC, Ghostbusters, and we put it all together, and hoped for the best. Next year, we might, if we do it again, do it closer to the evening when people start coming back for the fair,” Wert said.
He added: “We have so many volunteers, even our Queen, so it worked out. This is our first rodeo for the Blood Drive.”
The morning opened up with the Diabetes Walk at 8 a.m. around the fairgrounds. While organizers did not attract the numbers they had hoped, the walk complemented and followed the trend of the day in spreading awareness about these health conditions.
Diabetes is a focus of the Lions Club International, not just Newville, and former president, Dan Brant, said the walk was intended to highlight the benefits of exercise. Brant also noted the event was held in the morning to avoid the heat while walking.
The club is also considering partnering with another local organization for the event next year in hopes of improving numbers.
Walkers were able to go as far as they wished. One lap was equivalent to a half-mile, but most walkers strived for at least 1 mile, or two laps.
UPMC Pinnacle and Big Spring Senior Center also showed their support and hosted stations with information about diabetes. Among the volunteers and attendees, there were individuals who had experience with diabetes.
Rick Stryker, a longtime truck driver, was diagnosed in 2016 with Type 2 Diabetes.
“I was always thinking about the next stop, rather than what I was eating,” Rick said.
Because of the illness, he had a heart attack, and required open heart surgery.
“It was scary. It definitely brings you to realize how mortal you really are,” he said.
His daughter, Hailee, a rising junior at Big Spring High School, participated in the mile long walk.
Beyond basic awareness, he noted this event is great for collaboration, because it’s something that cannot be addressed on one’s own.
He advises youth to develop a likable eating plan, and one that works for the specific person. His own experience led him to discover how broiled meat tastes just like fried meat, and is much better for you. Contrary to popular belief, he said sodium can have an adverse effect on one’s blood sugar, and one has to be careful because some food items can have hidden sugars.
Kay Kann is a volunteer and receptionist at the Big Spring Senior Center, who has Type 2 Diabetes. She said diabetes is something that can go undetected if one does not exhibit symptoms like lightheadedness, and does not think to get checked.
“It varies with people. I don't get lightheaded,” she said. “If I didn’t get my bloodwork done, I wouldn’t know that I had it. If it runs in the family, everyone should be checked at least once a year.”
Kann represented the senior center alongside Rausa Roscinski, center assistant, who also has Type 2 Diabetes. They both warned that it’s not always the sugars one must avoid, but the starches.
Mike Chuba, Lance Bower and Scott Blackledge showed up in their familiar Ghostbusters Ecto-1 replica vehicle wearing the jumpsuits from the classic 1984 film. They took pictures with children, and shared information about why one should not be “afraid of no autism,” while holding their proton packs used to “fight ghosts.”
The gang spreads awareness for autism through organizations like Merakey in Chambersburg, and Shining Stars Therapeutic Ministries in Adams County.
“We are really happy to be here,” Bower said. “The event coordinators are super wonderful, and we are just happy to be here.”
The trio enjoyed “interacting with the different event-goers, bringing smiles and sharing their love of the movie and helping the community.”