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Plum fundraiser to benefit ailing Gateway graduate

Submitted photo
Jon Crain holds son Eli, 3, and Sara Crain holds the couple's other son, Dylan, 4.

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Spring Fling Vendor Fair

When: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 4

Where: Holiday Park United Methodist Church, 81 Sandune Drive, Plum

Details: All proceeds go toward Sara Crain's medical bills. Donations can be made to

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Susan Feldman and Sara Crain have a strong connection.

Feldman, 56, of Monroeville and Crain's mother, Susan Block, 57, of Pitcairn have been friends since they were youngsters.

Also, Block several years ago donated a kidney to Feldman's father, David Shapiro, 78, of Squirrel Hill.

When Sara Crain, 29, a 2002 Gateway High School graduate, became ill last year, Feldman wanted to help.

Crain of Coraopolis has been diagnosed with gastroparesis, a condition in which the muscles in the stomach don't function normally, preventing the stomach from emptying properly, according to the Mayo Clinic website. There is no cure, but diet change and medications are used to treat the disorder.

Crain said she also suffers from lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs and fibromyalgia, or musculoskeletal pain.

With Crain's medical bills ballooning into the thousands of dollars, Feldman decided to organize a fundraiser for her friend.

A Spring Fling Vendor Fair is scheduled for May 4 at the Holiday Park United Methodist Church in Plum. Other organizers include Block; Crain's mother-in-law, Laura Crain of Murrysville; stepmother Connie Block of Plum; stepmother-in-law Debbie Crain of Delmont; and Crain's aunt Helen Sheffler of Plum.

“I want to help Sara in any way I can,” Feldman said. “We didn't know what to do. We decided on a vendor fair.”

Sara Crain said her problems began in January 2012 when she began having knee pain. The pain quickly spread to other joints. She also developed a butterfly-shaped rash on her face that she later found out is a symptom of lupus. Crain began experiencing nausea in September 2012 and was unable to keep food down. She lost 45 pounds.

Doctors performed numerous tests and prescribed several drugs including steroids and prednisone. Nothing made Crain feel better.

“They tested me for everything,” Crain said.

In September, 2012, Crain was diagnosed with gastroparesis. She has a feeding tube that provides nutrition and decompresses the acid in her stomach.

Visits to both the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic produced thousands of dollars in medical bills for the family of four. The visits did not result in treatment breakthroughs. Crain cannot work. Crain's husband, Jon Crain is a small business owner. They have two sons, Dylan, 4, and Eli, 3.

“They (doctors) don't know what to do with me,” Crain said.

The fundraiser will kick off with a pancake breakfast, Feldman said. The menu choice will change to hot dogs and nachos in the afternoon.

The vendor fee is $25 per table. Vendors will be selling their products to those in attendance. A Chinese auction also will be featured.

Crain appreciates the time and effort going into the fundraiser.

“It is wonderful,” Crain said. “My family and I are astounded by the generosity of everyone.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or

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