Poland North Elementary School PTO opened the doors on their bake sale Wednesday, Nov. 20 and was pleased with the support they got. The donated baked goods numbered in the thousands with everything from cupcakes to cookies and even cake pops.
The event was named Icing Out Cancer and was used as a fundraiser for the Ayres family. Dan Ayres was diagnosed with colon rectal cancer a few months back and when North Elementary PTO members found out about his situation, they formed the event to help the family, of which two members are North students. The event was similar to an event held last year that also supported the fight against cancer.
"This [event] is much bigger than last year," said PTO mom and volunteer Amy O'Hara. "I am just overwhelmed with the number of people who stepped up to support this."
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Kim Ayres, her daughter Grace, son Chance, and husband Dan Ayers stand next to a bulletin board loaded with photos and news articles highlighting the bake sale held at Poland North to support the family in their time of need.
When the two-day baked sale kicked off on Wednesday, Nov. 20, Dan Ayres and his wife, Kim, came to the school to say thanks. Dan then told his story of how he found out about his cancer.
He said at first, he had some discomfort, visited his doctor and had a series of tests and blood work done, all of which came back clean. His doctor then asked him if he ever had a colonoscopy. He hadn't, and the test was scheduled. The results revealed an early stage 3 colorectal cancer.
"It shocked me and my wife to learn that I had this," Dan said. "It was an eye-opener."
To make matters worse, Dan immediately informed his employer where he worked as a tractor-trailer driver and oil field crewman.
"After I told [my employer], the next day they let me go and I lost my health coverage," he said.
Because of his insurance loss, he had to wait two months before he could finally begin treatment. He now has chemotherapy every day, Monday through Friday. He also has to make regular trips to the Cleveland Clinic.
"The doctors want to shrink the cancer before they operate," he said.
The surgery is scheduled for February. He said doctors told him the cancer was discovered in time and he should be able to beat it.
"I plan on being a grumpy old man," Dan said jokingly, "and I am not going down without a fight."
As far as his battle goes, he has a lot of people who are standing by him.
"We have wonderful friends and that really helps," she said.
Among those friends were the PTO members. They have all pulled together to help out in a relatively short time.
Their children, first-grader Grace and fourth-grader Chance, both understand the situation and are supporting their father in his battle. The family also has two grown sons, Dustin, 19, who plays with the Youngstown State University band, and Josh, 23.
Dan mentioned that this dark cloud's silver lining might be the effect on his future career path.
"I love Cajun food," he said. "A friend of mine said this might be a sign from God to get out of the oil business and into a Cajun smokehouse."
He said he would love to run a Cajun restaurant, but for now he is just looking for work. He said the five-day chemo makes that challenge a difficult one because potential employers would have to work around the treatment schedule.