March 07, 2012 - By Don Rush
If newspapers are the cement that binds the members of a community to each other, then social media websites must be the rubber bands that stretch and snap people back home.
Case in point is right here - in Lake Orion, Mich. With the help of social media mega-site Facebook, a group of Lake Orion graduates have reconnected from across the state and nation with one common cause - to help members of their home town.
Lake Orion Loves Facebook site has led to the formation of the nonprofit group Sister Souls, Inc. - also on Facebook.
According to Lake Orion High School graduate Jesse Moyet the groups have evolved since beginning two years ago.
"It started when my friend and fellow Lake Orion graduate (Kimberly Casper) wanted to have a fund raiser," said Moyet. "I had created Detroit Love Apparel and Lake Orion Love t-shirts, and she thought selling the t-shirts would work."
Today, Lake Orion Loves hopes to raise $100,000 by October. Funds raised aid the families of three Lake Orion graduates, Susan (Wasielewksi) Aisthorpe, Shelly (Lang) Burton and Niki Schwerin. All three have children who are battling life-threatening illnesses.
Niki Schwerin and her fiancee Jason Milewski live in St. Clair Shores with her two and a half year old son, Max Milewski. Max was born 11 weeks premature with Downs Syndrome and cataracts. He's also been battling Leukemia since Nov. 2, 2011.
Shelly Burton moved north to Oxford with her husband, Jim, and their seven year old daughter Nicole. Nicole has fought Leukemia since she was four and last March she was given the "clear" sign by doctors, only to have the disease come back more aggressively in May. Nicole just underwent a bone marrow transplant and complete immune system transplant on Jan. 16 as a last resort and effort to rid of her of cancer.
"As of today we continue to hope and pray she does not reject the transplant," Shelly said on Monday. "Rejection can happen anytime within the next two years."
Susan Aisthorpe and her family live in Lake Orion. Her daughter Faith will be seven years old in April and has Cystic Fibrosis. She takes five oral medicines and up to 12 breathing treatments a day. She has a permanent IV port in her chest for blood draws.
All three women consider themselves their own little support group - there for each other.
"We try to stay positive for each other, and we know if we need to, we can vent our frustrations to each other," Susan said.
All are grateful for the love they have been shown from the community they grew up in.
"I guess once you're a Dragon, you're always a Dragon even if you're not in Lake Orion," Niki said.
Shelly, even though she's moved to the historic rival town of Oxford, is overwhelmed by her hometown of Lake Orion.
"You always hear people say they will do this and that and that is all well and good," she said. "But, I never thought it would be like this. I'm taken aback. There's a reason we wanted to stay in a small community and that's because you know your friends have your back."
Added Susan, "I love Lake Orion. I cannot express that enough. The outpouring of generosity has just been over whelming."
The reason an October deadline was set to raise the $100,000 was to coincide with the arrival of another Lake Orion graduate, Marc DesRosiers, who is on a 1,400 mile bicycle trek from Denver. He plans to ride 100 miles a day and get to Michigan in time to compete in the Detroit Free Press and Talmer Bank Detroit Marathon.
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Upcoming events include:
* On March 15, LOHS grad Ron Ferguson will perform his comedy routine at the famous Mark Ridley Comedy Castle. Fifty percent of the ticket sales will go to the LO Love kids, but folks must remember to say they're friends of Sister Souls, Inc.. Tickets cost $10 and reservations are required. Call 248-542-9900.
* Divine Grace Lutheran Church and School on Lapeer Road is having a Mom-to-Mom sale on March 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is donating all proceeds to LO Loves.
Casper also said, "We will have a fundraiser this summer in the Lake Orion area that will be promo'd as a 'Lake Orion Reunion for All' to further our fund raising efforts for these children."
How the community has rallied is something Jesse Moyet didn't expect to happen.
"This is really awesome," said Moyet. "It feels good to help. Facebook has really brought that small, hometown feeling back. I don't feel like we're all that apart any more."
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Readers can go to these websites to make donations to a secure PayPal account and follow these childrens' stories at sistersouls.org and lakeorionloves.com
The Facebook pages for the childrens' causes are the Community Supporting Nicole Burton, Fans for Faith, Lets Fight Like Max for Max, Lake Orion Loves and Sister Souls, Inc.
Moyet's website for his business is detroitloveapparel.com