Jewell Cardwell

The elves behind the Goodyear Blimp’s “Santa Claus Express” and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s holiday joint maneuver are inviting area residents to the third annual benefit for the Toys for Tots Foundation, this weekend at the 800-foot-long blimp hangar.

This spectacular drive-through pageant and call for new, unwrapped toys or cash is happening Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the blimp hangar, 841 Wingfoot Lake Road, Suffield Township. The first two years’ efforts drew 4,942 vehicles that dropped off 12,534 toys and $16,343 in cash for the Toys for Tots campaign.

“These have been incredibly joyous experiences for us at the Airship Operations,” said Nancy Ray, Goodyear’s director of Global Airship Operations. “This year, working with the Marines and Navy personnel is especially significant as Goodyear was recently named a top 100 Military Friendly employer by G.I. Jobs Magazine.”

Ed Ogden, Spirit of Goodyear’s public relations manager, said the hangar “will be filled with holiday music and decorated in the holiday spirit as Santa waves from the blimp’s gondola to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. A contingent of Marines in dress blues will be on duty to collect and organize the toys for distribution to needy children in the area.”

Hangar hours on Friday are 1 to 9 p.m.; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. There is no charge to drive through the hangar and enjoy the scenery; absolutely no foot traffic is allowed.

Toys for Tots, which dates back to 1948, collects new, unwrapped toys and distributes them to needy children in the community. Goodyear — one of the world’s largest tire companies, with nearly 71,000 employees — owns and operates three airships in the U.S. and leases airships for special occasions in other countries.

Dad of 4 is ill

I have Deb Willhite to thank for putting me in the information circle regarding lifelong Suffield Township residents Dan and Bessie Zinz. .

“I’ll try to give you the short version,” Willhite wrote. “They have been married for 13 years and have four darling little girls ages 3-12. They are very involved in the community. Dan is a softball coach for the oldest daughter and Bessie is a 4-H adviser.

“Dan was diagnosed with sarcoma [a form of cancer] on Oct. 19. It is so far advanced in his right arm, he is having it amputated on Dec. 6. In the meantime he has an infection in his lungs. Normal course of treatment takes two months, but they are doubling up to try and get the lungs cleared up.”

Other medical problems have followed, including hives and a large blood clot in his upper thigh. Family and friends are hoping that new medications will clear up the lung infection and the surgery will proceed.

“Dan is employed as a geologist,” Willhite continued. “He is hoping to get back to work as soon as possible, but with the arm amputation, that would be a while. His sick time has been depleted with doctor’s appointments and procedures. He does have health insurance, but as we all know that will not begin to cover all the costs. Dan’s biggest worry is taking care of his family. Bess is a stay-at-home mom.

“Friends and family have kicked in to do whatever they can. They are having a Super Bowl Sub Sale on Feb. 2. And they have established the Dan Zinz Benevolent Fund at Key Bank (any branch). Thirty men and women also got together Nov. 10 to cut enough wood to get them through the winter. … The support from the community has been wonderful.

“However, Dan is worried about a vehicle to get to work. He is right-handed and his truck is a manual shift. So he needs another truck — not a car — since they heat with wood and he is constantly hauling wood. He also needs a crew cab so he can transport the girls when necessary.”

Any help surely would be appreciated.

Difficult recovery

In spite of the storm in which they found themselves walking through, Akron’s Valerie and Scott Scalf are grateful beyond words. While their storm is far from over, that they’ve made it thus far is miracle enough.

To appreciate what they see as their victory, you need to know their story:

“In 1984, at the age of 20, I married the love of my life,” Valerie Scalf began. “Yes, we were young and the odds were against us, but we have made a wonderful life and are still very much in love.”

Now fast forward to May 9, 2009.

“My husband Scott and I were enjoying coffee early on a Saturday morning,” Scalf said. “We had just recently become empty nesters and were truly enjoying it! … Scott had to coach a high school doubleheader softball game. I had to go to the same school — Hoban High School — where I worked, to do some extra things for Honor Night and Graduation. I left the house around 9 a.m. Scott left around 9:30.

“10:37 a.m., I received a call that Scott had collapsed on the softball field, the paramedics were there and they were transporting him to AGMC [Akron General Medical Center].”

She was met at the ER door by the chaplain and taken to see her husband. “He was lying on a bed holding his head. He was trying to talk but the words would not form,” Scalf recalled. “He reached out for my hand and I grabbed it and held it hard.”

Dr. Ghassan Khayyat, the neurosurgeon, told her Scott had a hemorrhage in his brain and he had to operate immediately. “It turns out that Scott had an arterial venous malformation in his brain that exploded,” she said. “We never even knew he had it! I called for a priest to administer Last Rites and they took him away.”

“Word spread and the waiting room started to fill up with family, friends and a lot of Hoban people. Six priests and two deacons came as well. There was a lot of prayer going on. The surgery took four hours. He survived but crashed on the way to ICU. Scott was in ICU four days and in another room four days. He was then transported to Edwin Shaw Rehab hospital for about one month.

“The outpouring of love and support from our community was unbelievable,” she continued. “People would anonymously send us money, gift cards, grocery cards and the like. My Hoban family provided meals each day I was at the hospital. Another Hoban employee donated me some of her vacation time so I could be home with Scott when he came home. Envelopes of money and gifts would show up on my desk when I was at lunch — again anonymously. At Christmas, St. Paul’s Church, which is where I grew up, sent me money. It was just amazing! It is a wonderful feeling knowing how much good is in the world.

“Scott will never, ever be the same. He will never work again. He has suffered permanent brain damage. However, he had made an absolutely miraculous recovery. He learned how to walk and talk again. … I see him struggle every day with the many deficits that he does have but he always relies on his faith to pull him through. … His desire is to work with youth. He does and speaks to different groups and holds leadership training workshops. Sometimes it takes him weeks to get ready for a speaking engagement or workshop but he never gives up.”

Join me in wishing the Scalfs a truly blessed Christmas season.

March of Dimes help

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Mu Rho Zeta’s Akron graduate chapter, recently hosted its “Bowling for Charity” to benefit March of Dimes’ prematurity awareness campaign.

“Every 30 seconds a baby dies from complications of prematurity, of which 75 percent could have lived,” said event coordinator Chandi Hogan.

The fundraiser netted $547.50 to add to its team campaign, which totals $1,017.50. Since 2004, Mu Rho Zeta has raised more than $7,100 for March of Dimes. The sorority also has sponsored several seminars on premature births at area churches.

Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or jcardwell@thebeaconjournal.com.