All of you who know him — friends, family, co-workers and castmates — know of his extraordinary generosity of spirit. Whether rehearsing lines for a play, visiting a sick friend in the hospital or telling you everything you ever wanted to know about an obscure foreign film, Michael is a giving person. The devotion to his friends, joy in sharing passions for theater, comics and music, and the rare quality of his listening are a gift to all who know him.
Now I’m asking you to send some of that generosity back his way. The picture, fully known to only a few, is grim. Michael is in daily physical torment due to chronic pain in his head and jaw. Often unable to find and sustain work, he has gone deeply into debt, emptying his savings and maxing out his credit cards. The search for a cure, or anything to even mitigate his suffering, has been a largely futile exercise in navigating the maddening health care and social welfare bureaucracies. The result has not only been ongoing pain and frustration, but fear and anxiety: not knowing when the pain will end; unsure of whether he can ever return to regular work; thinking of the future as one of crushing debt, limited resources and increasingly diminished physical capacity. At this point, he may not be able to pay rent beyond the end of February.
Michael needs you.
Michael with friend and fellow actor Ted Schneider
What began four years ago as a minor spasm in his jaw has gotten so bad that Michael never goes a day without intense physical pain. He has bounced from one bad diagnosis and ineffective treatment to another. There are days, even after taking pain meds, when Michael can do little more than lie in bed. His inability to find and maintain work has put an enormous strain on an artist’s budget to handle procedures that fall way outside normal health coverage. And state, federal and local organizations that might have helped have either kept benefits at bay completely or put Michael on waiting lists that last more than a year.
Lately, however, there has been a glimmer of hope.
Michael just recently heard of a new procedure that stops muscle spasms in the jaw by correcting the bite. He found a well-regarded dentist north of Philadelphia who performs the procedure, one of a handful in the world who do it, and his diagnosis and early treatment finally align well with his strange set of symptoms.
But non-routine dental surgery is extremely expensive. The costs are entirely uncovered by health insurance and are therefore paid out-of-pocket. And there will be several more visits before Michael is back to normal.
That’s where you come in.
We’d love to hit the goal to cover the costs of an estimated 4-8 visits plus transportation. Any money raised that isn't needed for the procedures will go towards helping Michael pay off debts and get back on his feet as the treatment allows him to return to more regular work.
Self-portrait by Michael Avolio
How You Can Help
It can be maddening to realize that even in 2019, there is no simple way to ease Michael’s pain. At first, there seemed to be no cure. Now, with relief in sight, there is the awesome task of paying for it. When it comes to employment, Michael is in the proverbial Catch-22: He needs to return to work, but in order for that to happen, he first needs some respite from the pain.
He needs your help. No donation is too small. It’ll be worth it to see Michael back to his vital self again. After the first of these treatments, Michael felt happier and more hopeful than he has in several years.
Whether or not you can donate yourself, please share a personal note about Michael and a link to this page on social media or in emails. It’s hard to exaggerate the ripple effects your help and kind words might have. There are few gifts more precious than health and peace of mind. Collectively, you’ll be helping restore our friend, relative and colleague back to a full life.
Thanks and best wishes,
Note: Please be aware that GoFundMe takes 5 percent out of each donation. If you'd rather donate directly through Paypal, Venmo or check, feel free to contact Michael or myself for instructions.
Michael onstage with friend and fellow actor Andy Brownstein in Long Day's Journey into Night at Quotidian Theatre Company
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