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Benefit dinner planned at Scottdale Firemen's Club

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Jerry Younkin was in need of a lung transplant to have a second chance at life.

That chance came Jan. 14, 2012 from a transplant received at the Cleveland Clinic. It was another step in a journey that began in 2009 when the former Scottdale Fire Chief was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which causes a thickening and scarring of the lungs. There is no cure for this disease and even breathing became a struggle for Younkin, who can no longer work.

“Overall, dad is doing great,” said Melissa Danser, Younkin's daughter. “He has had a few incidents of slight rejection, but Cleveland Clinic has treated that and he is in the clear. He visits the clinic every few months for a check up and they are excited about how well he is doing.”

However, bills are mounting and with that in mind a spaghetti dinner is planned at 6 p.m. May 9 at the Scottdale Firemen's Club, 405 Porter Ave., to help defray some of those costs.

According to information provided by TransplantLiving.org, the average lung transplant can carry a price tag in excess of $550,000. Health insurance did cover a portion of the transplant costs, but significant medical-related expenses remain.

“Financially, my parents are struggling to make ends meet with the cost of prescriptions, travel back and forth to the clinic, health insurance and everyday expenses,” Danser explained. “It seems like when things are already tight enough something major happens like the hot-water tank breaks. They are doing the best they can since my mother is the only one working. It has been hard for them going from two incomes to only one.”

The dinner is $8 per plate, which will include spaghetti, bread, salad, drink and a dessert. A basket raffle also is scheduled. Takeout containers will be available. The event will be catered by the fire department and the Backdraft Cafe.

Danser said items are needed for the dinner such as spaghetti sauce, meat, salad, baked goods and other items.

A benefit dinner in November, 2011 drew an estimated crowd of more than 400 people.

Younkin, 63, has taken other steps to alleviate the financial burden placed upon him and his family. He turned to the National Foundation for Transplants, a nonprofit organization that helps patients raise funds to pay for transplant-related expenses.

“We're all so happy Jerry received his transplant last year,” said Laura Hughes, NFT fundraising consultant. “But many people don't realize the lifelong costs associated with transplantation. I know that Jerry would love nothing more than to spend many more happy, healthy years with his wife, children and loved ones. At NFT, we want to help him do just that.”

Danser admitted her family's life changed since Younkin's diagnosis, but since the transplant there have been some great events.

Younkin, 63, was able to walk his daughter down the aisle for her wedding Dec. 22.

“He has been given a second chance to live and enjoy his family and friends,” Danser said.

For more information about the dinner or to donate items, call Danser at 724-875-7931.

To make a tax-deductible donation in honor of Younkin, contribution may be made to the NFT Pennsylvania Transplant Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave., Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Donations should include “in honor of Jerry Younkin” on the memo line. Secure donations also can be made online at www.transplants.org. Select “Find an NFT Patient” to locate Younkin.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or ppaterra@tribweb.com.

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