Community Shares Love4Russ

$47,390 of $125,000 goal

Raised by 243 people in 17 months
Created July 20, 2017
My Dad is someone who has always worked hard and gone out of his way to help others. Now, he needs help. After his career as a pharmacist came to an early end due to disability , he has faced many challenges and some terrible losses : he has had over 30 surgeries (including 11 complicated spinal fusions); he lost the love of his life and my Mom, Ginger Wilkinson; and, he supported and cared for his mother-in-law through 6 years of Alzheimer’s . Through it all, dad has remained a bright light and is always ready with a laugh. Now, he is faced with losing his home of almost 50 years.

Discovering there was a balloon payment due in full on his home equity loan, was an enormous shock! My mom managed their finances and did her best to kick the can down the road when they ran into skyrocketing medical expenses, and a reduced income, but she kept the $214,000 balloon payment to herself, no doubt trying to spare dad the stress. If he sells it now, he will walk away with nothing. My goal is to raise enough money to pay down the loan and then I could qualify to co-sign a new loan, allowing him the flexibility to sell part of his property, but keep his home.

Admitting he needs help and asking for it is one of the hardest thing I can think of to do, but it is also the only thing I can think of to do. The only thing harder, would be watching him experience one more major setback. If you believe good things should happen to good people, please help support and share the GoFundMe campaign “Community Shares Love4Russ.”

5 Ways You Can Make A Big Difference With A Little Help…

1. Donate and ask a lot of friends to do the same; 

2. And Share your own video story about my dad on social media and how he touched your life with hashtag #Love4Russ and a link to the GoFundMe campaign;

3. And Share a story, pictures, or video through the website www.Love4Russ.com

4. And Ask friends to share it with their friends and ask others to donate and share

5. Help connect popular media outlets to the #Love4Russ story.

Citizens of the Year
When dad was part owner of Saugatuck Drug Store for more than 30 years, he won the hearts of everyone in town with his kindness. He and my mom recognized the importance of giving back to the community and demonstrated it by volunteering for everything and anything. Because of their outreach, they were even named Citizens of the Year … twice! 

Forced Early Retirement 
My dad was forced to retire early after a number of surgeries left him physically disabled. He had-had: 2 intestinal surgeries; 8 spinal fusions; 5 shoulder surgeries; a quintuple bypass; neck surgery; several wrist and hand surgeries; and, bladder cancer. My Mother joked he was her little “Humpty Dumpty” because we were always trying to put him back together again. Even though he couldn’t seem to catch a break, he kept a positive attitude. 

Grandma got Kidnapped and Swindled by a Conman
In 2010 my mom’s mother, Dottie, got tangled up with a conman, who managed to kidnap her and loot her life savings, before we realized what was happening. My brother Andrew and I went to Arizona to rescue her and on dad’s birthday, Andrew flew her back to Michigan to live with my parents. Together we packed up everything she ever owned and moved it into their house. We were concerned at the quick progression of Dottie’s Alzheimer’s disease from our last visit. Dad welcomed her with open arms and helped her with whatever support she needed. 

Losing the Love of his Life 
Two years later in 2012, my mom went in for cataract surgery, but she experienced complications and went into respiratory arrest. Three days later on her 65th birthday, doctors informed us her brain had been starved of oxygen and there was no hope for recovery. We cut up her favorite cake, and passed it out to her doctors and nurses. Then after quietly singing happy birthday to her, we discontinued her life support. There really are no words to ever describe how completely shocking and devastating it was and still is! I think the whole town felt the earth shake.  

24/7 Alzheimer’s Caregiving   
When Mom died, Dad was recovering from back surgery #9, and I was still struggling to breathe after the shock of the enormous loss. But mom dying didn’t change the fact that we still had her mother to take care of, and grandma’s Alzheimer’s Disease had progressed significantly by then. I took a break from my career, and stepped right into my mother’s role of taking care of them. 

The four years after mom died were not easy, to say the least, but we did the best we could. My dad and I took care of my grandma, Dottie, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with little help and few breaks. In that time Dad had spinal fusion #10, cataract surgery, and a knee replacement. 

We tried to retain our sense of humor, but caring for Dottie became harder and harder… mentally, physically, and financially. When her Alzheimer’s induced rage would flair up, turning me into the enemy, he could somehow magically connect with and comfort her. 

Closing a Difficult Chapter, and… On To the Next Challenge
After a total of 6 very long and stressful years of caring for her, grandma passed away on October 1st, 2016. Within a few weeks, we learned dad needed his 11th spinal fusion. Despite doing my best to fight it, I sobbed all the way home from the doctor. I knew too well what he would have to endure yet again. He maintained his positive attitude repeatedly saying… “so long as we have each-other, and they don’t remove my sense of humor, this too shall pass!” 

On December 15th, 2016 he had the surgery and a few short days later he was home. By Christmas I had to cancel plans with our family, because his pain was excruciating and getting much worse. I took him to the ER, where they discovered a badly infected hematoma on his spine. A few days later they performed another back surgery. On New Year’s Eve, still stuck in the hospital, he turned our frowns upside-down with a party in his room, complete with his favorite LED disco lights. He put on his whimsical king crown and a smile, and walked the halls with his nurse. One by one each room erupted laughing, as he walked by in his funny hat and custom-made hospital kilt. All the staff wanted to be in his room to ring in the New Year!  

I’m sorry did you say…. BALLOON PAYMENT?!?!?!!
Financially he had already taken a number of big hits. His retirement was eaten up by skyrocketing medical bills and having to retire early due to disability. Mom had to stop working in order to take care of him. I had to leave work to take care of dad and grandma after mom died, and grandma had lost her life savings to a conman (not to mention the cost of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient full-time for 6 years). I was braced for another uphill climb, but when we called the bank to see if he could make payment arrangements for his loan, until he was recovered from surgery and I could go back to work full time, they told us there was a balloon payment due in full in June and they couldn’t refinance without someone to co-sign. Dad had no idea how mom managed anything financial, and she had kept the balloon payment to herself, no doubt trying to spare him the stress of knowing. It was a BIG shock!! 

He Will Lose Everything
This house is the only thing my dad has left. He built his life here with my mom. Next year would be their 50 year anniversary. He is brokenhearted at the thought of having to sell his home. What’s worse, if he could sell it now, he would walk away with next to nothing. 

House Goes On the Market This Month
He will have no choice but to put the house on the market. Unless we could raise enough money to make a large payment on the loan. If by some miracle we could raise $125k, I could qualify to co-sign a new loan for him. Then he would have the option to sell a few lots to pay it off, but keep his home. If wishes were fishes and fairytales did come true… $214k would pay the loan off in full.  

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! 
Dottie always said “Thank You” three times. On a hope and a prayer, I am putting this out there on the 5 year anniversary of losing my mom. It would be her 70th birthday on July 20th. I hope this drops on her great big wide angel wings and my dad’s extreme goodness goes far enough to lift him up. I am placing my faith in the goodness of others to help. He has been through so much already, and I know as many lives as he has touched, he has earned a break. I know the community shares the #Love4Russ, so I am asking for an abundance of it now. 

From the very bottom of my heart, thank you for taking the time to hear and share my dad’s story. He is a person worth celebrating and supporting in every possible way. I hope you’ll help me pass the word along and share your own story about my dad and why he deserves help. Crowd funding only works when a lot of people, friends and strangers, help a little and share a lot! The only thing I can think of that would be harder than asking for your help, is seeing him lose his home.

The thing I have of greatest value to offer, is time with Russ.

$5 Coffee with Russ
I am working to setup a location, date, and time to host a thank you coffee for the community. If you can't make it... not to worry, this is the digital age and you can virtually enjoy it through the video I will share after.

$10 Breakfast with Russ
I am working to setup a location, date, and time to host a thank you pancake breakfast and we'd love for you to join us. Can't be here in person, no worries, you'll get a video and his charm will translate, trust me. He is VERY colorful!!! 

$35 Dinner with Russ
I am working to setup a location, date, and time to host a thank you pasta dinner and it won't be that borring old spagetti... we'll get some really good local chefs in to make an amazing dinner. Again, I don't want you to fret if you can't make it, because you know I will send you a video! 

There would never be enough words to thank you for any contribution you are willing to make to help my dad out, but they say a picture is worth a 1000 words. As a photographer, I can only hope my photos will speak to the gratitude of my entire family and everyone who loves my dad. (photos will not be watermarked) 

$50 Thank You Card
My mom was the most prolific and gifted thank you card writer to ever walk the face of the earth. Dad's hands are too disabled to write (anything you could read anyway) so together we'll write you a thank you note on one of my handmade photo cards. 

$100 (2) 8x10 Prints
Choose from an assortment of photos and I will send you 2 high quality prints with a backing board in a plastic sleve. 

$200 (2) 11x14 Prints
Choose from an assortment of photos and I will send you 2 high quality prints with a backing board in a plastic sleve.

$500 (1) 24x36 Print
Choose from an assortment of photos and I will send you 1 high quality metallic print (probably in a tube, but let me get back to you on that)

To be safe, I am going to say the rewards will be shipped within 2 months, but my hope is to do it a whole lot faster. Stay tuned for updates depending on how this campaign goes. Bottom line... I will do my best to get it to you as quickly as I possibly can! 

1. OxBow Lagoon Sunrise - was taken in Saugatuck, Michigan. OxBow is a well known summer fine arts camp run by the Art Institute of Chicago. 

2. Oval Beach Lightning - I only had to take about 500 shots to get this one I like! This photo was taken at Oval Beach in Saugatuck, Michigan, as a rather threatening storm rolled in over the lake.

3. Oval Beach Pilings - While we're at one of my favorite locations anyway, lets have a few to choose from. The pilings are one of the most recognizable features of the Saugatuck beach. Anyone who had been here, would probably recognize them.

4. Oval Beach Footprints - Yes, they are my footprints, which I think sort of goes to show how private our public beeches can feel at times. Sometimes you get to sneak the view all for yourself... and only share the photographic evidence. 

5. Lake Michigan Sunset - I can never get enough of the sun setting over Lake Michigan. I can feel the warmth of that day, everytime I look at this picture. 

6. Star of Saugatuck - How about a pop of color with one of my mom's very favorite pictures of the Star of Saugatuck. Going for a ride on the Star was one of her favorite thigns to do. 

7. Saugatuck-Douglas Winter - This shot was taken from under the Blue Star Highway bridge, just after we'd had two consecutive days of ice storms, that froze and stuck to the trees like a candy coating. 

8. British Guards
- recognizing, not everybody lives in Saugatuck. This is one of my favorite photos from my trip to England. I love those hats, but man I bet they are HOT! 

9. London Path - This was a path I walked everyday at Middlesex University, where I went to school for a summer. I was obsessed with the trees. 

10. Beach Path - Ok, you caught me, we're back in Saugatuck, Michigan at the Oval Beach again. I just find so much peace there! 
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Dear Friends,

Thank you for helping to support our Love4Russ GoFundMe campaign! We decided to stop promoting the campaign, when so many natural disasters hit. Between the hurricanes and fires, so many people were left with absolutely nothing. We couldn’t justify asking anyone to help us, when others clearly need the help so much more!

After we suspended our campaign, we learned dad’s mortgage had been sold. Now we are in limbo, as we work our way through the administrative steps to get the new company to sign off on letting us sell his lots to pay off the balloon payment. We have had the property surveyed, next it will be appraised, and then we hope the new bank will work with us to let us list it. The money we raised with the campaign has helped to pay down the money he owes, and demonstrated his good faith to the bank. So far they have been flexible and willing to work with us. We hope that continues!

I wanted to offer you the rewards for your donations. If you visit the web site rewards page ( http://www.love4russ.com/rewards.html), you will see a form to order your photo rewards. I wanted to give you more options, so I created an alternate size/quantity option for each donation level and added some really cool vintage prints of Saugatuck dad had from his days at the drug store. Please let me know if you have any questions or problems placing your order.

I am working on coordinating a meal at The Southerner. Stay tuned for details on that coming soon!

Thank you so much for helping my dad! We have been so humbled by the outpouring of love and support. This time has been hard, especially for dad. He is from a proud generation, who don’t like to ask for help, but he has been so moved by how many people are willing to help him. He feels your love. There are really no words to express the gratitude we feel!

I hope between listing the lots and finding a full time job, we will still be able to get out of this predicament. Thank you for your help!

With Love and gratitude,

Erin Wilkinson
Photo by Kim Zahnow at Glow in the Park
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They don't look that naughty, but dad tells me they got kicked off the floor for "dirty dancing" that night! Today is their 49th wedding anniversary. We sure do miss her! #Love4Russ
Naughty couple of kids!
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Thank you for your help keeping this #Love4Russ campaign going! In under 3 weeks you have contributed to raising a whopping $33k! WOW! It has already been shared 621 times on fb. Please keep sharing and asking friends to share! This is a movement and we're so appreciative you're a part of it! Our gratitude is endless! Thank You!
Go Team #Love4Russ
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Oh Friends, good things are happening! We are so grateful for all the support we have received already from family, friends, and complete strangers. In just 12 days, with your help, we have already raised $23k. We are just completely flabbergasted by all the generosity and kindness coming our way!

And then today... we had a visit from Fox News. Please check out this story and share it on your social media:

Fox 17 News Crew with Russ
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$47,390 of $125,000 goal

Raised by 243 people in 17 months
Created July 20, 2017
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