Wilmington: A supportive community


Randy Riley - Contributing Columnist



There were hundreds of people — family, friends and fans — lining Main Street.

It was Wednesday evening, just past 6 p.m. After a short while, from the west, we could hear the whoop-whoop of the police sirens letting the city know the Hurricanes were on their way to the state basketball finals in Columbus. As they drove by, the team and coaches were cheered and supported. Die-hard fans, casual fans, and people just waiting to get into the General Denver waved, whistled and yelled their support and encouragement.

That’s what a caring community does. We let our young people know that we support them, want the best for them and will always be their greatest cheerleaders – regardless of the outcome.

This community does very well in that regard. We have always been a supportive community. This past weekend is a great example of how supportive Wilmington is.

Besides the carloads of Hurricane basketball fans that blew up the interstate to Columbus, there were still several hundred who flocked into the high school theater to enjoy the under-the-sea experience of the school’s production of “The Little Mermaid.” My wife was absolutely in awe of the talent and production that went into bringing this undersea experience to the community. Who could have predicted months before that both events would occur on the same weekend? But, they did and the city strongly and enthusiastically supported both.

That’s what a caring, supportive community does. We support arts and sports at the same time, on the same weekend with cheers, applause and encouragement for both.

The community also supported an indoor Bluegrass Festival at the Roberts Centre and The Drowsy Lads, an amazingly talented Irish band that stirred the crowd at the Murphy Theatre. Several times during their show, we stood and cheered The Lads as they brought the finest example of Celtic music to the Murphy. I’m not sure where they came up with the name “Drowsy Lads,” they were filled with energy and entertainment.

This past Saturday evening, there were several opportunities to support the arts, attend festivals, horse shows and community events and that’s exactly what the community did. We supported them all.

Importantly, this community doesn’t only support the arts, sports and entertainment, this community, and the wonderful people in it, continuously support one another.

My grandson’s recent journey from being diagnosed with cancer in June, to the surgical removal of his right eye the following week, followed by six months of chemotherapy to prevent any possible spread of the tumor, all of his examinations and diagnostics; his long journey has been followed by friends and neighbors for months.

Clayton has been on prayer chains in almost every church in the county since the tumor was discovered. The outpouring of love and support has overwhelmed the entire family.

Like the supporting community we are, the support of Clayton and his family continues.

The generous, caring members of the Beta Sigma Phi sorority and Modern Woodmen of America worked for weeks to prepare a benefit to help cover some of Clayton’s medical expenses. It was awesome.

Hundreds of people came to the Senior Citizens Center on Nelson Road on Saturday to show their support for a young family caught up in a nightmare that could have taken the life of their beautiful young son. 2015 was a year of incredible highs and lows for the Earley family.

They started a new business, A-All Animal Control. They bought a new home in Martinsville. A year ago, Jessi found out they were going to have a baby in early October. Clayton was found to have cancer in late June. This, followed by removal of his right eye and six-months of chemotherapy.

Halfway through his prescribed chemotherapy session, Clayton’s daddy, Sean, fell off a roof resulting in multiple fractures of the ribs on the right side of his chest, a shattered right clavicle, punctured lung and lacerated liver. While visiting Sean in the hospital, Jessi went into labor with Baby-Claire. Claire and Clayton now share a birthday, October 3rd. Finally, after the worst roller coaster ride that a year could provide, Clayton was declared cancer-free by his pediatric oncologist on January 4th. Now, they are left with a pile of medical bills, many that are not covered by their insurance.

To the rescue came the ladies of Beta Sigma Phi and the huge-hearted people of Modern Woodmen of America. In one evening, they raised over $10,000 to help cut into the mountain of debt facing the Earley family.

Why? Because this is what a supportive community does. Wilmington supports our youth. Wilmington supports athletics, arts, festivals and entertainment. Wilmington supports our citizens. We support those who are in need.

Wilmington – what a great place to call home.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

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Randy Riley

Contributing Columnist

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