On Sunday, Feb. 23, from noon to 4 p.m., a spaghetti dinner and basket raffle will be held at Austintown Middle School. The hope is to raise $15,000 to help one local man who needs a double lung transplant.
"We are hoping for a couple thousand people through the doors," event promoter Mark Cole said.
He said raising the funds is a critical factor for Austintown resident Larry Ortz. The hospital won't do the transplant unless they can be assured the recipient has the funds to cover the required medicine for one year.
"The surgeons and hospital want to be sure the medicine is available," Ortz said. "Without the medicine, the transplant would basically be useless."
Ortz has been dealt a tough road in life. His lung problems caused him to miss work, and he eventually was let go after 34 years working for a local company. While his wife Bonnie continues working, the family is just making ends meet while paying the $670 per month to maintain their health care coverage.
Cole said without this fundraiser, the Ortz could not come up with the funds or expensive medicines that are needed for the year following the transplant.
Ortz said he suffers from a lung disease that includes bronchitis, emphysema, and one other lung ailment. He could not get just one lung as the disease from his other lung would spread to the new one. The only chance for a long life is to get both lungs replaced at the same time.
Ortz will be meeting with surgeons on March 5 to find out where he is at on the transplant list. Ortz is 56 years old and he said that is about the limit that a double-lung transplant would be performed. He will also have to be in top form to go through that type of surgery.
"The odds of making it through the first year after a double transplant aren't the best, but some make it another four or five years," Ortz said. "Some have lived a good life for 15 years."
Both Larry and Bonnie have been active Austintown residents. They have been involved in youth sports organizations and PTA. His son Sam was on the Fitch football team last year that went 12-1. Sam was also on the Fitch indoor track team that was sponsored by Rotary.
"That is where I met Mark Cole, and we have become friends ever since,' Ortz said.
When Cole and several others found out about the situation Ortz was in, they took action. In a short time they had come together to put on the fundraiser that would help guarantee his transplant would happen.
"I am just so blessed to have such good friends that care about my family," Ortz said. "It really means a lot."
All these friends have been working hard to get the fundraiser together. Cole said there is a need for more baskets for the auction and any business that can donate will be appreciated. He also said anyone who got a gift for Christmas that they don't want, drop it off and they will make up baskets for the auction.
Baskets can be dropped off at the Austintown Senior Center, 100 Westchester Drive, during the day, or call Cole at 330-720-0381 and he will come out and pick up the basket or donation.