What started out as a routine story about a fundraiser for a local family struggling with major medical and financial issues rapidly evolved to one about an amazing community of caring.
The entire Hudson community has been coming together to help a family in crisis.
Initially area tennis fans teamed up to support local tennis instructor Jeffrey M. Belcher in his fight for survival at Cleveland Clinic. But in the past few weeks, the support has spread throughout Hudson.
Belcher, 41, a self-employed tennis instructor and coach, has been hospitalized in Cleveland Clinic since the first week of March, suffering major complications resulting from the flu and a compromised immune system because of a thyroid disease, according to tennis acquaintance Kelley Graham.
She and others in area tennis circles organized a tennis round robin fund-raiser for Belcher and his family May 6 from 10 a.m. to noon at Towpath Tennis Center, 2108 Akron-Peninsula Road.
"We are a community," Graham said. "We all want to do what we can to help him and his family."
A $50 donation is requested to participate and all proceeds are being donated to the family for medical and living expenses. To make a reservation, call 330-697-5460.
"I'm not sure what we can raise, but every little bit will help," Graham said.
Belcher was self-employed with minimal health insurance and has had no income while he's been hospitalized, according to Graham.
Dallas Aleman, co-owner of the Towpath Tennis Club with his wife Nancy, is hosting the fund-raiser at no charge.
"I know Jeff professionally and I am aware of his circumstances," Aleman said. "I cannot imagine what his family is doing now."
Many members of the Towpath Tennis Club know Belcher and his wife, Lora, also a tennis professional, according to Aleman.
"We thought maybe we could do a fundraiser. Not everyone could play, but we thought it would get the word out that the family needs help," Aleman said.
Belcher's illness has already prompted many kindnesses far beyond the tennis community, according to Lora Belcher's friend, Mary Farley.
"The Hudson community has been wonderful," Farley said.
Farley said Belcher, who was on a ventilator at Cleveland Clinic since early March, is now off the respirator but the damage done to his body was significant. She said he will be in the hospital for many more months.
About 20 residents have been providing meals for the Belchers since early March on a rotating schedule.
"The people have been phenomenal," Farley said.
She said St. Mary's church is now taking over the meals with its "Feed My Sheep" ministry.
The Belchers have been in Hudson for four years but the community has embraced the family of four as its own.
"One of their friends just took the utility bills and paid them," she said.
The Belcher's children, Jack, 10, and Kendall, 12, are being cared for by neighbors while Lora stays at her husband's bedside, according to Farley.
"They have no family here," Farley said. "Everyone is doing what they can to help. And these Hudson businesses are terrific. They're all donating items for the fundraiser raffle."
Farley, who has been in Hudson for three years, said she was glad to be a part of such a caring community.
"We love it here," she said.
For those who would like to assist the Belchers, the Jeffrey M. Belcher Benevolent Fund has been established at the First Merit Bank, 116 Streetsboro St., Hudson, Ohio 44236, or at any First Merit Bank.