Friends of Christian Celebrating Ten Years of Helping Families in Need
CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – For 10 years, the Friends of Christian has provided much-needed financial assistance to families in Clarion, Jefferson, and Venango Counties who deal with health problems, and it is gearing up to choose another family to support.
(Photo Above: Christian Burgdofer)
The Poker Run and Pig Roast is scheduled for July 24, and it is open to all road legal vehicles.
“Unfortunately, there is never a shortage of families with children who have heath and financial problems,” explained Friends of Christian’s Rodney Beck.
Friends of Christian is a 501 c3 nonprofit organization that started in support of a friend, Christian Burgdofer, of Shippenville, (pictured above), who suffers from Immune Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP) and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). ITP has the immune system attack the body’s platelets, and POTS is a form of dysautonomia, which is a problem with the autonomic nervous system.
“His dysautonomia symptoms vary and are managed individually as they occur,” Beck said of Christian. “He is currently stable, but his ITP requires close watching. At one point, got a really bad virus that made his immune system go crazy. It started attacking his platelets, and by the time he got to Children’s Hospital, his platelets were at 3,000, and he was close to spontaneously hemorrhaging in his brain. After months of medications and treatments that failed, he was finally put on Promacta.”
Insurance currently covers the cost of Promacta, which is over $10,000 a month, but he needs to meet a certain rate of success for insurance to cover it. That rate of success keeps his support system concerned.
“Whenever he gets a cold, his platelets count plummets, and we start watching for the petechial rash,” Beck said. “The POTS showed up as a seven-month-long migraine flowed by seven months of chronic vomiting. It’s all being managed with meds and is fairly successful, but he struggles with a lot of breakthrough symptoms.”
That concern grew into forming a non-profit to help local families of children suffering from serious illnesses. The Facebook page has a nomination process, and there is also word-of-mouth, and both get families’ names to the board. Then the difficult process of choosing a family begins.
“We contact viable families and visit them at home to ensure they are the people that were nominated to us,” Beck said. “We review all available information on all candidates and decide as a group after a short debate among our members. That’s the hardest part. Every family who makes it that far could use our help. We wish we could help every family.”
Beck said that the past couple of years have increased the need for organizations like Friends of Christian. He explained that the pandemic increased the cases of children in need of mental health services and families who need additional help from their communities.
“It becomes more of a need literally every day,” he said. “I also work as a Behavioral Specialist at Abraxas. That has become a non-profit as well. They have waiting lists just to house the children who need help. The problem is nationwide. Friends of Christian attempts to bring comfort to one deserving family from our local community every year, but it has become so much more than that. The organization, the members, the people who attend the bike ride and dinner, the businesses and people who donate, and the families all walk away knowing there are great people out there who care. People here now and willing to help.”
This is Beck’s first year as president of Friends of Christian. He’s a resident of Wentlings Corners and has owned several businesses over his life, and the nomination as president came as a great honor. He said that the people – which he calls a family – are key in running a successful nonprofit.
“To say I am humbled wouldn’t begin to explain how honored I feel every day I think about being a member of this organization,” he said. “I have become a better man, a better human by being around these people and helping the families. We all pitch in and communicate how we can help or. There are no egos in Friends of Christian. This is always about the families and never about us.”
Friends of Christian raises money through a variety of processes, and Beck calls those processes the biggest miracle of Friends of Christian. They do a gun raffle, get donations, sell meals, and do one big event, but Friends of Christian is always able to help members of its community.
“We depend solely on the hard work of our members and the kindness of businesses who donate money or an item to help the family in need,” Beck said. “Businesses are struggling every day since the pandemic, but they look past the bottom line and give until it hurts.”
COVID also altered Friends of Christian’s plans to do an event two years ago. He is excited to get back to normal with Friends of Christian.
“It feels fantastic to be back to work trying to help a family out for our tenth year without not knowing if we’ll get shut down by the COVID virus,” he said. “Last year was our best and biggest donation to any family. And that was against every possible hurdle and obstacle thrown at us!”
The next round of nominations are in, and Friends of Christian will be searching out the next family to help. Beck is thankful for the work the organization does. He said that the donations to families show them that the world has some good in it.
“They see not everybody is out for themselves,” Beck said. “Yes, it provides money to help ease the travel, food, medication, or medical bills, but Friends of Christian also gives hope to those families those who attend the event. It may be just our little corner of the world, but our light shines on that little corner. Thank you to everybody who helps that light shine. You are all amazing!”
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