Friends of a former Sunbury Christian Academy graduate with a rare and aggressive cancer have organized a fundraising page online, and are holding a benefit alumni soccer game this Friday evening at the athletic field at Sunbury Bible Church.
Josh Parry, 33, was diagnosed last year, shortly after the birth of his third boy — they are 6, 3, and 1 — with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), a rare cancer in adults.
Parry, of Pittsburgh, a 2004 graduate of Sunbury Christian and a former Danville resident, hopes to return to the school for Alumni Day, 6-9 p.m. Aug. 10. The game starts at 7. The event is at 6 p.m
"Eighty percent chance I'll be there," Parry said, while being interviewed with his wife, Maria, from their home in Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon. "That's our goal. I haven't traveled that far in a year and a half. I haven't been in a car that long. I just have to make sure my numbers are up. That I have enough platelets in my blood before I leave."
One of Parry's friends, Kent Himelright, of Sunbury, first had the idea for the benefit.
"I first met Josh in sixth grade, and we were friends all the way through graduation," Himelright said. "We've had alumni soccer games in the past, but we haven't had them in a long time. I figured it would be great to turn the alumni event into a benefit for Josh Parry and his wife Maria."
"We had small class sizes, so they came up with the idea and asked if it would be OK with me, and I said, 'that would be fine,'" Parry said.
The Alumni Day is called Play for Parry, and the soccer game will benefit Josh and his family.
Parry, now an engineer with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, played soccer at Sunbury Christan from seventh grade until graduation, Himelright said.
"He would be playing at the game if he could, it's probably hurting him that he can't," Himelright said. "He's a competitor and a leader and if he could get out on that field he would."
"Right now he's gone through chemo treatments and exhausted that," Himelright said.
Parry has been fighting the disease for a year, Himelright said.
"I'm doing OK now," Parry said. "I'm in a walker. I'm out of a wheelchair. I've been to the point where I had a cane, so I'm in-between right now. But my cancer is ALL and my doctors have told me I need to get into one of these trials (treatments) because at this point all they are doing is keeping my cancer at bay. They are not going to be able to cure it right now."
Josh is hoping to get into a trial treatment on the west coast, but the trial relevant to his form of cancer is full and he's hoping to be slotted in soon. He would have to travel out to the west coast for the treatment. Two of the test programs are at UCLA and Stanford.
Meanwhile, the family is coping. "The kids are managing," Himelright said. "Kids are resilient. They are being brave. Just like Josh."
Anyone interested in helping can go online to Pledgeit.org and pledge any amount of dollars per goal scored in this year's soccer game. Play for Parry is the name on the website.
"We'll take donations and pledges at the alumni event up until the game starts," Himelright said.