Friends of a popular seventh grade technology teacher at Elwood Middle School battling cardiomyopathy are hoping friends, family and colleagues will rally to support him at a fundraiser next month.
All proceeds of the fundraiser Oct. 14 at the Armenian Society of New York, in Little Neck, will go to Alex Wightman -- who has gone on temporary disability -- and his family.
Alex was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease in which the heart becomes extremely enlarged, in August 2009. Though he was finally approved for a heart transplant in 2012, his doctors believe that Alex's wait will be about three years.
In the meantime, there’s a family to support. “I’m working so I was able to pick up some extra hours,” says Alex’s wife Diane. “But insurance only covers a certain amount and we haven’t gotten a disability check since June. Thankfully Jeanine stepped in.”
That would be Jeanine Yip, the wife of Alex’s good friend Paul. Recognizing the difficulties faced by the Wightmans, she volunteered to put on a fundraiser.
“Alex Wightman is the kind of person who would lend a hand to anyone,” said Jeanine. “He would take the shirt off his back for a perfect stranger, just the kindest person, amazing husband and loving father.”
“Alex Wightman was a great teacher,” said John Marsicano, a 2011 graduate of John Glenn who heard about the fundraiser through social media. “I'm sure the entire community is feeling for him and his family.”
On the day, Jeanine -- who has run the catering operation at the Armenian Society for years -- will be cooking, and there will be donations of food. The event starts at 3 p.m., and entertainment for kids at 5:30 p.m.
There will also be a 50-50 raffle and a Chinese Auction. “It’s early but already a lot of great things are being donated to us,“ says Jeanine. “'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' audience tickets. Gift cards. And other big prizes in the works.”
Organizers of the event haven’t set a monetary target -- after all, they say, it’s also about publicizing the need for organ donors and the seriousness of cardiomyopathy as a health issue.
And then there’s the issue of emotional support for the Wightmans. “It helps us get through the day,” says Diane. “We’ve been overwhelmed with the response. People are posting and reposting the flyer, and told me how they’re praying for us, and how Alex’s story has touched them”
That’s why she’s looking forward to good attendance at the fundraiser. “It will be so important to see our friends and family in one place, to see their support for Alex.”
“We believe Alex is going to fight this battle, and win,” said Jeanine Yip. “We can't wait to see them get their life back.”
The Iranian-Armenian Society of Little Neck is located at 3903 Little Neck Parkway. For more information visit the fundraiser's Facebook site.