A fair shake for a friend

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
It’s not easy to ask people to donate items for fund-raisers, but sometimes the importance of the cause helps people overcome any personal hesitations.

That’s been true for “Friends of Richard Wall,” a group of people who have rallied with one goal in mind: They want to raise money to help with medical bills and ongoing expenses after Wall was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome-a pre-leukemia disease.

Two of Wall’s friends, Melissa Bartel and Becky Lindsay, recently put on their walking shoes. They canvassed downtown Hillsboro to procure donations for a fundraising booth to be set up in the Commercial Building at the Marion County Fair this week.

“I’m not a good person for asking for things like fund-raisers, but this is for Richard, and it was so easy,” Lindsay said.

“Melissa and I just walked in and said, ‘We’re doing a fund-raiser for Richard Wall.’ And they said, “‘Good, I’m glad somebody is doing something.'”

The “Friends of Richard Wall” booth will sell tickets for the opportunity to take home one of many theme and eclectic baskets and bags-filled with items and coupons donated by area merchants, service providers and Wall’s friends.

A professor of biology at Tabor College, Wall has been on staff for the past 27 years.

Hillsboro residents and visitors can thank him for designing and building the local Jacob Friesen Mill, a replica he meticulously constructed with period tools.

“The Friesen Mill is the symbol of Hillsboro,” Lindsay said. “And he does anything for anybody. If you have something that needs to be done, you call Richard, and he does it.”

Wall and wife JoAnn watched daughter Julie play T-ball and softball over the years. He was known for diligently keeping score during games played in the soaring 100-degree summer heat.

The bond of friendship among the parents of the Hillsboro Heater fast-pitch softball team grew strong over time.

“We’d sit there and laugh and have a good time,” Lindsay said.

Julie and Lindsay’s daughter, Holly, developed a close relationship through the years, and played on a successful Hillsboro High School softball program before graduating in 2002.

Now, the two girls are teammates at Tabor College.

“I knew something was wrong with Richard last summer when we were at a Tabor softball game,” Lindsay said. “JoAnn was there and said, ‘You need to pray for Richard. We’re not sure what he has.'”

After learning Wall was eventually diagnosed with pre-leukemia, Lindsay sent letters to the parents of the former Hillsboro Heater team. Under the letter headline, “Time to Get Together Again and Help a Friend,” the message asked the group to meet the last week in July to plan a fund-raiser.

Instead of a benefit dinner, the group looked for an alternative way to raise money.

“We were trying to come up with something different,” Lindsay said. “And we thought, ‘We’re right here with the fair, so we’ve got to do something with the fair.’ We thought we could get the most people at the fair-we could get all the people who travel through-to see our booth.”

The list of donors for the baskets and bags reads like a who’s who of Hillsboro merchants and service stores.

“Dale’s Supermarket is talking about doing a sausage-dinner basket and putting in coupons for his German sausage,” Lindsay said. “Then he’ll put in non-perishables, like the mustard and barbecue sauce. We’ll also have KSU and KU baskets coming from Odds ‘N Ends.”

Braden’s Computers and Baker Brothers Printing Co. are contributing toward an office-supply basket, and Bartel’s Panhandlers Catering Company is donating a 25-person meal.

Baskets and bags filled with donated items will be displayed at the booth. Tickets will be sold starting at $1 each with a place on the ticket to write in a name and telephone number. Each basket or bag will be numbered, and a sign will indicate the contents.

Numbered jars, corresponding with the baskets and bags, will be at the front of the booth. Fairgoers can purchase tickets to place in the jar for an opportunity to go home with the baskets that catch their fancy. Certain jars will indicate minimum ticket amounts.

Holly was in charge of scheduling volunteers to help manage the booth in one-hour shifts starting Wednesday evening and ending Saturday afternoon.

Former Hillsboro Heaters were signing up one week before the fair, and fellow HHS classmates also volunteered to help. The drawing is scheduled for about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, and ticket holders do not have to be present to win.

“We’ll deliver the baskets to the people,” Lindsay said.

After only one day canvassing the downtown area, Bartel and Lindsay signed up 18 donors and optimistically planned to find many more before the fair started.

Donations have even crossed county borders into Newton.Volunteers were able to get donations from such places as Bethel College and Sunflower Business Systems.

Lindsay said she has no idea how much money Wall’s friends and donors will raise.

“It’s just whatever we can get,” she said. “I would love thousands and thousands of dollars, but I know that’s not going to happen.”

In addition to facing current and future medical expenses, the Walls have been traveling back and forth on a regular basis for treatment outside the area.

“JoAnn has to take him to Newton almost every day,” Lindsay said. “If they’re not going to Newton, they’re going to St.Francis Hospital in Wichita. Just gas expenses alone have to be astronomical.”

Lindsay credited the many people who have been involved in the fund-raiser but are too numerous to list individually. The “Friends of Richard Wall,” Hillsboro Heaters, HHS Class of 2002, donors, volunteers and the local newspapers have all worked to help a friend and member of their community family.

“It’s just people associated with Richard,” Lindsay said. “I’m just overwhelmed by all these people.”

For more information about the fund-raiser or to donate, call Becky Lindsay at 947-2369.

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