CRANBERRY TWP — David Pritchard and his family hoped a few markers and a piece of poster board would help in their quest to find him a new kidney.
They couldn't have known, however, how widely their message would be sent, due in part to the Pittsburgh Penguins. And while Pritchard is still awaiting a donor who meets the criteria, that help is coming a little closer to home.
Pritchard, along with his wife, Julie, daughter Ashley and son Justin, have been chosen as the 2019 Cranberry Community Uniting People (CUP) Inspirational Family. They will be the beneficiary of several events, beginning Friday with the annual Jason Koliscak Good Friday Golf Classic.
The Cranberry CUP was founded in 2000 as a way to get the neighborhood homeowners associations involved in a softball competition to raise money for charity. Since then, more than $1.5 million has been raised for local residents, and additional events have been added.
According to Anthony Bertolino, the Pritchard family, who live in the Grandshire neighborhood, are no strangers to the CUP, having been assisted a few years ago. He said funds were used to help provide a reliable vehicle for the family as David made trips to and from the doctors.
According to Julie Pritchard, her husband had a kidney transplant in 2006, and successfully fought off IgA Nephropathy and a C. difficile emergency. He also battled tongue, tonsil and thyroid cancer. She said those challenges were complicated by her being the sole bread winner as David fought his health issues and both children were in college.
In May 2018, David was diagnosed with stage 5 kidney failure and had to begin dialysis.
“It was like, 'When is this ever going to end?'” Julie said.
She said the first time David needed a donor, a family friend stepped in to be a living donor. It allowed David to bypass dialysis, and avoided a lengthy search for a match.
However, due to his health history, the likelihood of finding a match is significantly diminished, Julie said, to nearly 35 percent.
In December, as they waited and hoped to find a match, Ashley surprised her father with tickets to a Penguins game. They took with them a sign asking Santa to deliver a new kidney for her father, with a phone number to call. The Penguins posted a photo of the sign to their various social media accounts.
Julie said by the time the game had ended, dozens of people had reached out to ask how they could help. The response grew after the NHL posted a story about the family to its website. In total, 70 people offered to be tested as possible donors.
However, due to the strict requirements, none of them worked out, leaving the family to continue its search.
That's where the Cranberry CUP stepped in.
Bertolino said in addition to helping however they can financially, the goal of this year's CUP event is to bring awareness to David's search for a donor. Having lived in the township for 32 years and being involved in youth sports and other community activities, the family is a great and worthy choice, he said.
“They're a good fit, and they've supported the CUP in the past as well,” Bertolino said.
Julie said the family was “extremely shocked” by being chosen as the Inspirational Family. She said the offer was “out of the blue,” and the family is thankful for assistance in finding a donor.
“We've just got our fingers crossed,” she said.
In addition to next week's golf outing, a wine event will be held in June, with Bertolino saying plans will be ironed out. The Cranberry CUP weekend — which will feature a kickoff party, opening ceremony and softball tournament — is scheduled Aug. 2 to 4. More information can be found at cranberrycup.org.
Julie said her husband intends to be at those events and is working to raise awareness not just for himself, but also for others who need a transplant. She said that while he has faced challenges in recent years, he hasn't let them slow him down.
“Dave doesn't let any grass grow under his feet,” she said.
Those interested in finding out if they can donate a kidney to David should visit https://livingdonorreg.upmc.com/ and enter his name as the recipient.