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    Blog — Beneficiary Bio

    Jason Patten

    Jason Patten

    Jason Patten, has been committed to caring for his 11-year-old daughter, who has faced multiple debilitating conditions since birth. She cannot walk or talk, so Jason and his wife, Roxanne, work together to keep up with her care along with their other daughter. But, 2020 proved to be an even tougher year because Jason, himself, was diagnosed with a painful disease.

    “This past February, I started noticing weakness and tingling in my hands, and I didn’t think much of it,” Jason explains. “But it progressed rapidly, and there are some days that I am completely bed ridden.”

    Jason, a former mail carrier who is used to being on his feet for work, was diagnosed with CIDP. It’s a  chronic inflammatory disorder that targets his nerves. The effects have been devastating and Jason is now limited to a walker or wheelchair.

    “I have constant muscle spasms, painful aches across my entire body, my feet swell and my hands totally cramp up to the point of locking. I then need someone to pry them open to help release the pain.”

    The family, who lives in a farm house that dates back to the 1800s, is challenged by the setup of their home because it is not handicapped accessible.

    “It’s an accomplishment somedays if I can just make it outside to my porch to enjoy a nice day,” Jason says. “Going from an active mail carrier and avid outdoorsman, to this…it’s hard not to fall down a dark hole.”

    But, Jason says that he chooses to wake up each day with the hope that the day ahead is a good one – for him and his girls.

    “Having 26 Shirts focus on my story and help my family through a really tough time is an amazing blessing. I am very thankful for 26 Shirts and Buffalo as a whole. GO BILLS!”

    Jason Patten's shirt launched 12/19/20 and closes out 1/3/20. 

    This story is written by Kate Glaser and provided in partnership with Hope Rises: 

    Garnet Loveday

    Garnet Loveday

    “It is what it is” is a motto that 29-year-old Garnet Loveday repeats to himself daily.

     “I cannot change having cancer, but ‘it is what it is’, and I will get through this,” says Garnet.

    This past summer into fall, Garnet and his fiancée, Autumn, were busy planning their wedding. They had big plans ahead of them, but one September morning changed their future.   

    “I had a debilitating headache. I called off work for fear of being sick, and not wanting to expose anyone. But then my headache turned into something much worse, and Autumn called for an ambulance.”

    Garnet had signs of neurological damage and doctors tried to install a shunt, but intense swelling prevented the operation. Doctors told Autumn to prepare for the worst.

    “They told her that I was going to die, and to call my family, who live near Albany, to get to Buffalo quickly,” Garnet explains. “But I got extremely lucky, and they were able to install the shunt after draining the fluid that had built up on my brain.”

    Garnet was put into a medically-induced coma and kept in the ICU for weeks, which is where doctors found a pineal tumor. Through successful surgery, the tumor inside his brain was removed along with the entire pineal gland. But, that tumor left a devastating impact.

    “The good news was that removal of the tumor was successful. The bad news was that it damaged my vision. That is hard for me because I rely on my vision so much – I am a competitive mountain biker, skier, and I don’t know if I will ever have the visual acuity that I did before.”

    Despite a chaotic experience, Garnet was discharged and optimistic for total healing. But a visit to Roswell Park revealed even further challenges.

    “I will never forget the resident’s face – even through his mask - when he told me that I had brain cancer.”

    Thoughts like – ‘How will I survive?’, ‘I want to be a dad someday’, and ‘I need to be here for my future wife’ raced through his head. Garnet immediately began radiation, chemotherapy and even underwent gamma knife surgery to have a fighting chance. He is now on oral chemo medication and will continue that for months, even years if necessary, until he is declared cancer free. 

    “Maybe more stressful than the tumor itself and the cancer diagnosis has been the financial strain of being sick,” he says. “So, when the community rallied behind me, behind us, it gave me a new lease on life.”

    Garnet says moving forward, this experience has taught him to appreciate the simplicity of life.

    “I am trying to connect with people more, and call my mom more. This community has done such a good thing for me, and there is nothing more special than that. I will continue to fight because so many have shown that they care.”

     Garnet Loveday’s shirt launched 12/14/20 and closes out 12/27/20. 

     This story is written by Kate Glaser and provided in partnership with Hope Rises:  

    Ryann Wing

    Ryann Wing

    When Robbin Wing was 20-weeks pregnant, she was put on bed rest. Her amniotic fluid was low, so doctors wanted to proceed with caution. But, at 34-weeks, Robbin went into labor to deliver her third child, a baby girl named Ryann. Robbin had no warning that her NICU baby would have a troubling diagnosis. 
    "I cried when I heard," Robbin says. "I didn't get to see her right away, but when I did it all sank in that we had many challenges ahead of us."
    Baby Ryann was diagnosed with a chromosome syndrome, which greatly impacts growth, development and muscle tone. Along with a cleft palate, she doesn't have the strength to suck or swallow the milk she needs to grow, so Ryann was put on a feeding tube. 
    "Her tiny body also requires oxygen, but I will tell you, she bounces back very quickly," Robbin exclaims. 
    Despite having more than a dozen medical specialists, in home nursing and an upcoming surgery for a facial defect, Robbin describes her daughter as the family's bright light. 
    "Our family may be going through so much, but we all have each other and Ryann is our reason to smile." 
    Now 9-months, Ryann continues to need around-the-clock care and specialized medical attention. Funds raised through the 26 Shirts campaign for Baby Ryann will greatly help with necessary medical equipment and the medical bills that continue to "pile up", according to Robbin. 
    "I am shocked, and also humbled that Del and his team would think of our family...our baby...and choose us," Robbin adds. "With her upcoming facial surgery, this is coming at the perfect time." 
    Baby Ryann's shirt launched 12/7/20 and closes out 12/20/20. 

    This story is written by Kate Glaser and provided in partnership with Hope Rises: 

    Mike Wrazen

    Mike Wrazen

    When you see a photo of Hamburg resident, Mike Wrazen, he will most likely be smiling with his thumbs up.

    “He is very optimistic,” says his fiancée, Jill Swan. “Always looking toward the positives, and approaches life head on.”

     But the 43-year-old learned devastating news this past January when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, after months of unexplained weight loss. It’s what doctors call a, “silent and deadly” cancer.

    Despite the heartbreaking discovery, Mike has made a commitment to living life with hope and kindness, especially setting a positive example for the couple’s 6-year-old daughter, Gabriella.

    “We find hope in each other and in our daughter, as well as our faith,” Jill exclaims. “We really hold one another close.”

    Mike, a professional welder, has continued to work through the 15 rounds of chemotherapy, even going into work the day after treatment with a chemo bag attached to him. It’s a further example of his motto of “not giving up, and powering through the challenges”.

    Treatment for Mike failed this September and his cancer metastasized, so now the family is looking to cherish every single moment they have together. Mike is retiring at the end of November to enable him to spend undivided time with his girls. This means that support is important, now more than ever.

    “I reached out to Del, and told him our story and he put us right in the queue for a t-shirt in honor of Mike,” Jill says. “This is home. We wouldn’t chose to live anywhere else. Buffalo is truly the ‘City of Good Neighbors’. We feel the community wrapping their arms around us.”

    Mike Wrazen’s shirt launched 11/23/20 and closes out 12/6/20

    This story is written by Kate Glaser and provided in partnership with Hope Rises: 

    Jordan Berkhoudt

    Jordan Berkhoudt is in consistent and immense pain, and one of the few times that Shelli Berkhoudt manages a laugh is under the absurdity of it all.

    Here's her son, who's gone from a freshman invited to train with the Hamburg High School varsity volleyball team to a 16-year-old unable to go to school or even get out of his wheelchair on account of the pain.

    What that pain is, doctors just can't sort.

    "Jordan has seen dozens of doctors, and they all say something different," Shelli says, as lightheartedly as you could hope. "We're not sure which one of these doctors knows what they are talking about."

    What the Berkhoudts know is that Jordan has Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos, something a lot of athletes have that means the connect tissue in your body doesn't work correctly. For those athletes, that means rare ability. For Jordan, who has an extreme case, it also means constant pain.

    He's also been diagnosed with Lyme Disease, which makes the doctors' task more difficult since Lyme can mimic other diseases.

    Oh, and that Lyme has come with an infection called Bartonella.

    "He doesn't have a loss of muscle tone, he just can't stand," Shelli says. "If he goes to stand, and he hasn't been able to try in months, the pain will knock him off his feet. He had visiting nurses for his PT for a while, but he's in so much pain that if he'd ever try... He's got a bubble of spinal fluid in his spine. Some people have and it means nothing, and others do and it means something."

    The Berkhoudts are hopeful it carries some meaning, but the rare and uncooperative diagnoses have led to a load of travel to see specialists. Husband Dave, once Jordan's coach, has quit work. The Hamburg family is racking up costs.

    A portion of the proceeds from every 26 Shirts Volume 5, Shirt 12 design "Lovin' It" goes to help Jordan and his family with costs associated with his care.

    "All of the trips are out of pocket and a lot of time the doctors are out of network," Shelli says. "The Lyme doctor wasn't covered at all. We're averaging $20,000 a year in medical bills and we had to put a lift in our house to get him upstairs."

    Getting on a plane is "horrible," but driving is not an option. It's crushing, because this kid could play: volleyball, hockey, baseball... now it's video games like Overwatch and Fortnite. And Jordan loves that, but the costs are stopping that, too.

    "He's trying to save some money to start a gaming channel and get all that equipment," Shelli said."A lot of his friends are online, video gaming, and texting. He doesn't leave the house except for medical appointments. All his friends are turning 16 and learning to drive. He's angry, and the pain takes your mind places where you don't want to go. He doesn't think it'll get better."

    "He was a smart athlete and he deserves the chance to try and get better again, even if it's not sports. It could just be going back to school. It's amazing how much this has changed our lives."