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Local Hero Battles Brain Tumor

$16,826 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 209 people in 7 months
You might remember the name Riza Kasikcioglu from news stories earlier in 2017.  When he and his wife saw  a fire at the Oliver Place building at 118th Street and Jasper Avenue in January 2017, he not only called 911 for help but he ran into the building to warn the residents . He knocked on doors, yelled for people to get out, even carried a woman in a wheelchair from the 7th floor down. 

This wonderful man who was our local hero just about a year ago when he  fought to save lives that day is now fighting his own battle with a brain tumor. 

He had just opened his Donair shop, Maximo's Pizza & Donair a few months before the fire last January. As a first generation immigrant he used up his life savings and took on a lot of debt when he opened that business. Like many small business owners struggling to keep afloat, he doesn't have any supplemental insurance, or emergency funds he can fall back to. 

Mr. Kasikcioglu is currently at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute awaiting brain surgery.  Initial tests are somewhat promising, as it's possible that the tumor in his brain might be a benign one. However, we were told that doctor's won't know exactly until after the surgery. And still, it’s a complicated brain surgery that’s awaiting him.

Riza has two young children. His Pizza & Donair shop has been closed for the last few days, as he was running it by himself.  He has a mortgage to pay. 

As the Turkish Canadian Community we are trying to organize volunteers to re-open his Donair Shop so we can run the place and help the family financially while Riza has his surgery and then recovers from it... but we expect this to be a lengthy process. 

If you can donate to this campaign to help his family during this difficult time we will appreciate it. If you can't donate financially, follow this page for updates. Once we can get his Pizza and Donair Shop up and running again, you might be able to help by ordering from, or stopping by his shop for lunch.

I know Mr. Riza Kasikcioglu through my involvement in the Turkish Canadian Society.  Just like he jumped in to help those in need during the fire, he has been a wonderful volunteer for our community as well, helping any way he can. 

All donations will go directly to Mr. Kasikcioglu's family to pay for their living expenses and any medical expenses not covered by AHS.

CBC Story about Riza
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I realized I haven't written an update about Riza for a while. Riza is making a recovery from his brain surgery but we have suffered some setbacks. There were still a few spots in his last MRI after the surgery. The doctors have to monitor those because they could be scar tissue or cancerous cells. So far, he's getting better every day but his cognitive skills, hearing, and balance are still a bit of a challenge.

The volunteers who were trying to give his Donair shop a makeover while he was recovering also suffered a set back. Riza's store is the only occupied unit in the building, and unfortunately the pipes froze in the building shortly after new year. Riza's store was without water for almost 3 weeks. Although the work volunteers did luckily weren't damaged the landlord's maintenance team had to cut several holes in the ceiling to access the pipes. The landlord has agreed to forego the rent for Riza's store for the month of February due to these problems, but it means that the money we have raised so far is all gone.

Also disappointing was to hear from Alberta social services that Riza is not eligible for income assistance just because we deposited the donations we received from this GoFundMe page to his account.

The only good news out of all these setbacks is that Riza is now feeling well enough to spend at least a few hours in his store. We have opened the Donair shop this last Saturday (February 10th) and will have a grand reopening on February 17th.

Please continue to share Riza's store with your friends on social media, and if you are anywhere around downtown stop by to buy your next pizza or donair from Riza's store.

In the spirit of everyone who has helped Riza during this ordeal, we have also started a new tradition in Riza's Donair shop. He used to get a lot of homeless people coming in to ask for free food. Given Riza needs a lot of money these days to reopen his store and stay afloat, we thought it's best to start a way for anyone eating at his donair shop to donate free meals.

So if you are headed to Riza's store next time, tell him you want to donate a meal for $5.00. Riza and/or the volunteers at the cashier will put a "Riza's Heroes" token in the jar for all the donations. That way the next person who comes in, who doesn't have money to buy a meal, doesn't even have to feel embarrassed asking for food. All they need to do is to pick a Riza's Heroes token and pay with that.

Finally, if you happen to have the financial means to continue helping Riza a little bit more, we will appreciate it.
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Riza is making continuous progress at the hospital, and as his friends we are trying to make sure he doesn't worry about his Donair Shop and upcoming bills. I had requested an initial withdrawal from GoFundMe, so Riza and his family have money in the bank for their mortgage and other bills. That initial deposit of $10,299.30 has arrived, so we made that initial deposit to Riza's bank together with his wife. Thank you for continued donations through the GoFundMe page. Please continue to share Riza's story. His surgery has gone well but it will still be a long recovery process for him. Together with some volunteers we are also trying to give Riza's Donair Shop a bit of a makeover. I have created a Twitter and Instagram account to document the transformation. Please follow @Maximos2HEROES on Social Media to get updates on when we will be able to open Riza's Donair and Pizza shop again. Thank you all. We recorded a short message from Riza at the hospital yesterday. I will try to share that as soon as possible.
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Here's another update about Riza, and our campaign:

I finally had a chance to visit him at the neurosurgery intensive care unit at the U of A hospital and talk with his doctor. The doctor confirmed that the surgery was successful, but there is 20% chance that he might need another surgery to deal with the drain tube. He confirmed that this type of tumor wouldn't be the type of tumor that would kill Riza, but he said there is some probability of reoccurence in 5, 10, or 20 years.

Riza appears to be doing well cognitively and with his motor skills. His vision is blurred still. When I walked in the room he said he can't really tell the people apart. He technically should start eating some food but he hasn't been able to. He has a gagging reaction even when he tries to take small sips of water, which must cause pressure in his swollen brain tissue... so he said "he feels like his brain is going to explode when he eats or drinks". His doctor said however there doesn't appear to be any physiological reason for him not to eat. So we will try to get him to eat something soon, so he can get off the IV solution.

As a side note I have raised the campaign limit because the doctor said it might be up to 6 months for him to get back to normal.

If we can't re-open his Donair Shop for him, or sell it soon, it will lead the family potentially to bankruptcy.

I had an interview about Riza with City News today, and have an ambitious goal to make Riza's ordeal and the community's response to it a true miracle during this holiday season.

I am going to try to put out a call out for volunteers so we can spruce up the store and run the place for him until he is well enough to run it himself. Riza had inherited the name Maximo's when he bought the business from its previous owner. He had wanted to change it but didn't really have the money to replace all the signage, menus etc.

If we can manage to spruce up the place over the Christmas break with the help of volunteers we will open the place with a new name. A name Riza suggested when he woke up from his brain surgery:

We will call it HEROES.. not Hero's referring to Riza's heroic response to the Oliver Place fire, but heroes (plural) because Riza sees each and every one of you who donated to his campaign, and everyone who offered to volunteer at the shop until he is up on his feet as HEROES who came to his rescue.

So what do you think? Can we get together and do a little business makeover for Riza's donair shop? If we can get volunteers to help spruce up the place and then run the shop with Riza's wife, I think we have an opportunity to write our own beautiful Christmas story of inspiration.

Let me know if you have time during Christmas break and would be willing to come in and work at the store as volunteers.

Thanks again for your gracious support.

Sim
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Riza had his surgery for the brain tumor today.

As the initial tests before the surgery indicated, first comments from the doctors indicate that it was a benign tumor. I suspect final results will come from pathology but this is very promising. Doctors have told his wife that the surgery was quite successful. He is in an induced coma for the next 24 hours but we are keeping our fingers crossed that there won't be any damage to any of his brain functions when he wakes up tomorrow.

Getting to chat with Riza and his wife yesterday I have learned even more details about how dire their financial situation is. He had borrowed a lot of money to open his business. His rent for the Donair shop is $4,000 per month alone. As his health was deteriorating over the last few months (unbeknownst to him that it was because of the brain tumor) he had already decided he wouldn't be able to run the business all by himself and had put it up for sale....

So please pass the word around. If there is anyone interested in purchasing his Donair shop, Riza will probably still need to sell it, even after the surgery.

I met with the social worker yesterday who told us the social assistance they will get as Riza recovers from the brain surgery will likely be around $1,200 per month. They get no child payments from the federal government this year because Riza wasn't able to submit his taxes this past year. I will work with he family to sort those problems as well.... but please continue to share our campaign page.

They will need every penny we can get for them through this campaign.

Thanks again to everyone who donated, and who have passed the word around.

Happy Holidays to each and every one of you!
Rıza, the night before his surgery
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Raised by 209 people in 7 months
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