June 27, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Community Builders: David Lytle Memorial Foundation gives back

By Angela Huston

Special to The Gazette

David Lytle grew up in Litchfield Township, graduated from Buckeye High School in 1986, went to ITA and became an arborist, then moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he was involved in a car accident in 1992 that left him a quadriplegic.

The accident so threatened his life that at times doctors did not expect him to live, but Lytle was a fighter. As soon as he was able, he returned to Ohio, attended Kent State University and graduated with a degree in psychology in 1998.

Shortly thereafter, he was hired at Sterling Jewelry and worked his way up to supervisor.

Lytle also served as the vice president of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. He never stopped following his dreams. It was hard to think of him as having a “handicap.” He toured Europe, canoed, snow skied, played wheelchair rugby and even went skydiving.

In 2005, he entered and won a Today Show contest. The prize money, from the auction of the “Green Room Book,” which is autographed by many celebrities, went to the charity about which he wrote, the Lupus Foundation. Lytle had written about his caregiver, Kassie Biglow, who passed away from lupus one day before her 31st birthday.

He participated in Relay for Life each year and even finished for the first time on his own only two days before he passed away in June 2007, at the age of 39.

Being a quadriplegic changed Lytle’s life in more ways than just physically. He devoted his life to helping others and never turned away a friend in need. He was a true inspiration to everyone he met. He even said if he had a choice he would not change what happened to him. He is remembered for saying, “If you can’t stand up, stand out.”

The idea of a foundation in Lytle’s name was first discussed shortly after he died, and officially organized in September of that same year.

Those who initiated the foundation, classmates of Lytle’s and their spouses, were Brian and Mary Hilberg, Kim Backlund, Alan Pratt, Bob and Dona Theis, Jeff and Karen Rice, Bill Phillips, Brian Jupina, Jackie Kirby-Wilkins, Shannon Marie, John and Jennifer Coyne and Kelly Goss. Since then numerous others have become involved.

The David Lytle Memorial Foundation is “a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to helping, enriching and inspiring those with spinal cord injuries to live life to the fullest.”

It is governed by an executive committee, including President Alan Pratt, Vice President Jackie Kirby-Wilkins, Treasurer Brian Hilberg, Secretary Kim Backlund, and a board of the 15 original founders. Meetings are held on an as-needed basis at Marie’s Café.

The organization held its first fundraiser in December 2007, a wine dinner at Marie’s Café. The second annual Wine Tasting and Dinner will be held Dec. 10.

A celebration benefit was held at Buffalo Creek Retreat in June. Ongoing discussions outline additional fundraisers that could include a golf outing and a Quad Rugby tournament.

Funds raised will be used to provide support in acquiring technology such as wheelchairs, walkers, vehicles, computer track ball devices and touch screens for people with spinal cord injuries.

The foundation also provides grants or scholarships for activities such as educational and conference opportunities, camping, travel and adaptive sporting programs.

The foundation is always looking for volunteers to assist at events, and donations are always gratefully accepted.

Interested individuals can e-mail Pratt at apratt01@zoominternet.
net or Hilberg at bhilberg@zoominternet.net.

Visit the foundation’s Web site at ww.davidlytlememorialfoundation.org.

Huston may be reached at areanews@ohio.net.