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Ruritan club eases strain of medical expenses

March 23, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

alician@herald-mail.com

Illness can be depressing and frightening, not to mention financially taxing.

The Maugansville Ruritan Club did what it could to ease the burden for Judy Whetzel and Becky McSherry, two area women with serious illnesses.

On Saturday, March 20, beginning at 3 p.m., the club held its 40th annual auction. In past years, proceeds from the auction were used to finance various community service projects. Charles E. Cunningham, 66, chairman of the auction and a 32-year Ruritan member, said this year the club decided to split profits 50-50 between Whetzel and McSherry to assist with medical expenses.

Whetzel, 57, is a Maugansville native who now lives in Sharpsburg with her husband, Mike Whetzel, and her son, Adam, 15. Judy Whetzel was diagnosed with asbestos-type lung cancer in September and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

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She is scheduled for a biopsy Tuesday, April 20, to rule out throat cancer and could be facing surgery in May to remove her left lung.

Whetzel's sister, Clara Joy, said Judy Whetzel has no insurance, and medical bills are piling up.

McSherry, 30, a wife and mother of four, was diagnosed in 1999 with lupus - a disease that causes the immune system to attack the body's tissue and organs. She has since endured blood clots in her lungs and a major stroke. Her husband, Mike McSherry, said she was hospitalized 13 times in the past year.

Becky McSherry is seeking a stem cell transplant, without which her doctors say her organs would likely fail within five to seven years. On Sunday, March 14, she left for Chicago to begin testing for the transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Mike McSherry said the stem cell transplant is considered experimental, so its price of up to $150,000 is not covered by the family's primary insurance and is only partially covered by their secondary insurance.

Nearly 300 people attended the auction at the club building in Maugansville, and Cunningham said as many individuals and businesses in the community donated auction items ranging from bunk beds to ball caps bearing the names of local companies.

Area businesses and friends of the Ruritan contributed food and drinks. Clair Martin, a local auctioneer who donated her services, gathered a group of friends who took turns peddling items until well past 9 p.m., and Stouffer's Auction and Real Estate of Smithsburg provided complimentary auction equipment.

Proceeds from the event totaled almost $9,700, Cunningham said.

"It's been pretty amazing, all that the community has done. It instills in me that there is still good in this world," Mike McSherry said.

The 52-member Maugansville Ruritan works throughout the community.

In addition to providing hospital beds and other medical equipment to people who need it in their homes, housing Red Cross blood drives and driving senior citizens to voting sites and sick people to medical appointments, the club holds annual events like the Maugansville Pride Memorial Day weekend celebration, Christmas tree sales, house decorating contests, Easter egg hunts and sunrise services.

The group provides college scholarships to graduating seniors in the area each year, and it sponsors several community events.

For more information about the Maugansville Ruritan Club or funds for Whetzel or McSherry, call Jay Stouffer at 301-739-9221.

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