McDonald rallies with class

Many of McDonald High School’s Class of 1988 will get together this afternoon.

Typical classmate get-togethers are over golf or a dance or homecoming football.

But the 1988 grads will get together to help one of their own, and you are invited.

“Team Jacob” was created by classmates and friends to support the family of Joy and Bill Sypert.

Jacob is their oldest son, and at age 9, he is in Day 10 of a 100-day isolation period as he recovers from a full bone-marrow transplant.

Jacob’s a veteran of many activities — one of them, sadly, is battling leukemia.

At age 4, a six-week cold was eventually diagnosed as leukemia, and he battled it for 31/2 years with chemotherapy and hospital time.

He eventually enjoyed 15 months of being a kid, Joy said Friday from Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron.

“He rode a bike, he swam, he played baseball, played with his brother [Jaret, 7 next week], he went to summer camp for a week ...” she said, listing 60 weeks of childhood normalcy.

This past fall, childhood was put on hold again for Jacob.

It started when swallowing became difficult. Then bruises started to appear on his body. By Halloween, there were dozens of bruises. The following week, it was confirmed: Leukemia was back.

It crushed them.

“There was a lot of crying,” Joy said. “A lot.”

The family was crushed again just two days later.

Joy’s mom, Sandy Rudge, died.

Jacob had to be left at the hospital while the family went to his grandmother’s funeral.

The loss was immense for the Syperts. So, too, was the outpouring.

Lisa Hill November remembers chatting with classmate Jim Houck.

“We found about this on a Thursday, and we were going by Monday,” Lisa said.

Their effort launched around the classmates, but like many things in McDonald, it became a whole-town effort.

“Sometimes we know too much about each other,” Lisa said with a smile. “But when someone is sick or in need, it’s when the small-town ties come together.”

For this crew of high school friends, it came together unofficially to aid a couple of families over the last few years. Joy was actually part of a team cooking meals for a sick friend. (Beef tips with gravy over noodles)

This time, it’s for Joy’s family, and it has an official name — “It Takes a Village.” You can find them on Facebook if you add “The Jacob Sypert Support Effort.”

Food and gift cards were initial offerings in a word-of-mouth effort, Lisa said. At various school events, where 50/50 raffles took place, all the groups that were to benefit instead gave the cash to the Sypert fund, as did the actual 50/50 winners.

With two working parents, hospital trips and mom’s passing, Christmas was at risk. But the community took on the needs, and Christmas for four was ready for the family when they got back from the hospital Christmas Eve.

It was, in ways, a buildup for their biggest battle.

On Valentine’s Day, Jacob underwent a complete bone-marrow transplant. Joy took a leave from her job to be with him for a 100-day isolation period. Per Joy, because it’s Jacob’s second bout with leukemia, doctors decided the more severe marrow transplant was necessary.

An anonymous donor stepped forward. (After a year, the two can elect to meet, if they choose.)

Jacob’s visitor list is limited to mom, dad and a couple of others. Brother Jaret can talk to him via computer.

Jacob’s fellow third- graders in Mrs. Gault’s class at Roosevelt Elementary School have been sending posters, cards and letters to help him bide the time.

The emotional and economic toll is without need for expounding.

The 1988 classmates — including Dini Richuiti, Kristine Berena and Mark Stamford — stepped up fundraising efforts, and it continues today with a spaghetti dinner that you are invited to attend.

It’s today from 2 to 5 p.m. at the The Reserve Banquet Center on Illinois Avenue in, of course, McDonald.

Tickets at the door are $10 adults, and $8 for kids age 5 to 12.

I’d say wear blue if you want to fit in.

But they know who’s who, and are glad for that. And they will be glad to have you join them today.

“With McDonald — you can blink and pass through and not notice,” Lisa said. “As kids, we were outside until dark riding bikes. ... Everything you did crossed over into someone else’s life. Most of my friends I was close to are now my kids’ ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles.’

“You get that small-town camaraderie here. It’s always been that way,” she said.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at He blogs, too, on Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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