2017-01-05 / Front Page

An emotional 2016

Stories that united, divided, angered and pleased us
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


COUNTY RESIDENTS united to support Nate Wilson, one of two young peninsula people who faced large medical expenses last year. Wilson is shown here with his wife, Hannah. The two married Nov. 5. COUNTY RESIDENTS united to support Nate Wilson, one of two young peninsula people who faced large medical expenses last year. Wilson is shown here with his wife, Hannah. The two married Nov. 5. In many respects, 2016 was an emotional roller coaster. Four stories seemed to stand out. We’ve followed up on our coverage in our first edition of the new year.

County unites to help people with needs

It’s said that the strength of a community can be measured in the way it supports its members.

If that’s the case, we’re Leelanau strong.

More than 600 people turned out at two separate fundraisers Aug. 27 and generated thousands of dollars to help two ailing young people in the county.

They showed a united Leelanau County, one willing to go out of its way to help neighbors.

Friends and family rallied ‘round Nate Wilson, a 25-year-old farmer from Solon Township, who was diagnosed in June with a degenerative eye disease that attacks young people.

Considered incurable, keratoconus, is a thinning disorder of the cornea that causes visual distortion. Previously, the only treatment was a corneal transplant. However, Wilson was given hope in the form of a new procedure recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The only problem: Wilson’s insurance company considered the remedy “experimental” and as such not covered by his policy. Members of the farming community organized a fundraiser on the Gallagher farm in Elmwood Township to help one of their own.

Moneys raised were used to help cover the cost of the procedure, which Wilson had soon after in Indianapolis. Cost of the surgery alone was $8,000.

He recently had a three-month post-surgery checkup and is pleased with the results.

“The doctors were surprised at how well it went,” said Wilson. “It not only stabilized my vision, but it improved it.”

The outlook is great for Wilson, who married his longtime girlfriend, Hannah on Nov. 5.

“We are so blessed by our family and friends in Leelanau County,” he said. “I’m scared and don’t know where I’d be without their efforts.”

The same Saturday in late August the farming community in the southwest part of the county joined forces to support a young mother battling breast cancer.

Becca Noonan spearheaded an effort for Glen Lake classmate Kelly (Winowiecki) Florip, 30, who was diagnosed with triple positive grade 3 breast cancer. At the time of the benefit, Florip had just received her second chemotherapy treatment, so she didn’t make it to the pig roast attended by more than 500.

Florip had health insurance but faced a $6,750 deductible that had to be met twice during her cancer treatment.

Organizers had hope about 150 people would attend the event, held on the farm Noonan shares with husband, Casey.

A 350-pound donated pig and dozens and dozens of dishes and desserts brought to pass fed the crowd that nearly tripled the anticipated turnout.

The benefit raised more than $12,000 for Florip and her family, which includes a toddler named Mabel.

“It was amazing,” Noonan said after the event. “Everyone came together to help. It was a great community effort.”

Support in the form of cards and letters continued into the fall as did good thoughts for Florip who underwent successful surgery Dec. 9.

She could not be reached directly for comment.

A Facebook post shows dozens of cards from well-wishers with the following message:

“This reminds me of all of those who are behind me! Words just cannot express how I feel. You all are so awesome! The best gifts of all are your kind words, prayers and love! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

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