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'Let's help Todd'

Spaghetti dinner planned to cover Braidwood man's medical expenses

Locals organizing a fundraiser for a Braidwood man are hoping to raise money to help him cover medical bills he has racked up as lingering effects of colon cancer.

The VFW Men's Auxiliary in Morris will host a spaghetti dinner for the man, Todd Neitzel, from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Morris VFW, located at 309 McKinley Street. The dinner is $15 per person and will include music by Kevin Chalfant's Journey Experience, as well as raffles and a silent auction.

A longtime friend, Dana Weese of Morris, is taking part in coordinating the event. She said the idea really got its start with Neitzel's uncle, Kevin Chalfant, who is part of the band that is set to play.

"He said, 'You know, let's help Todd,'" Weese said.

Weese said she's known Neitzel since they were 7, and considers him like a brother. They both graduated from Minooka Community High School.

"He's the nicest guy," she said. "He would help anybody if they needed help. He's funny, just a great all-around guy."

"He was always the first one to help others — now he needs our help," she said.

Neitzel said he heard about the event from his uncle and was surprised by it.

"I didn't know what to do — I just cried," he said. "It was a blessing and it's just snowballed. I have a lot of good friends and it's just an outpouring of support in the nick of time."

He said the medical issues he's experienced in recent years stem from a colon cancer diagnosis as a 23-year-old. Then, doctors removed a portion of his large intestine. After being cancer-free for over 20 years, in the last five years more problems have emerged that required more surgery.

This year, doctors found he had lingering radiation damage to his small intestine that required portions to be removed, and he was hospitalized for about 15 days in June for the surgery. Additional complications have come up following the surgery that have required more than a week in hospital stays. 

As the bills have grown, Neitzel's problems compounded when he received word his employer had filled his position in October. He said that, for a short period, he's covered by his union, but after the period is up, he'll be facing some serious challenges.

"I'm down to a couple of weeks left of disability pay from the Teamster's Union," he said. "Aside from that, I can't get unemployment because I'm unable to work — I can't actively seek work."

He's hoping to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits for the second time in his life — he went on it while being treated for cancer and went off after finding employment — but finding medical coverage will also be difficult.

"I'm almost impossible to insure," he said.

While he's still young, he said cancer has had a big impact on his life. He said it's been difficult to revert back to being sick.

"I've worked my way to this point in life and to have it come back at me again has been overwhelming," he said. "I'm just taking it day by day."

In the meantime, he's looking forward to hearing his uncle's band play Saturday and seeing friends at the benefit.

"I'm just thankful that I've got so many good friends," he said. "It'll be a great night."

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