By Blythe Alspaugh
COVINGTON — Hundreds took to the streets of Covington Saturday morning to show support for local resident Ben Wilson.
“Thank you guys all so much for coming. It’s very humbling and it’s very much appreciated. I can’t say it enough — thank you to everyone,” Ben said.
The walk that was organized for Ben was held to raise money for Ben and his family following an unexpected diagnosis of stage 4 glioblastoma in March. By the morning of the walk, over 300 people had registered to participate, with more showing up the morning of to participate and show their support for Ben.
Participants gathered outside the Covington Eagles as the event kicked off with opening remarks from event co-organizer Josselyn Tobias-Lavey, followed by an update from Ben and a prayer from Ben’s father, Jeffery Wilson.
“As you can see, we got so many donations from various people and business, and it’s awesome,” Tobias-Lavey said. “Let’s have fun! Thank you for coming!”
“Before we bow, I want to thank everyone, on behalf of Annetta and our family, bless all of you,” Jeffery said. “We’re thankful for the crew who put this together — thank you so much. I can’t say it enough.”
Ben, who had 100% of the baseball-sized tumor removed from his brain in March, gave an update on his condition. Every two months, he has MRIs to check and see if any cancer has returned, as part of his treatment. As of his June 15 MRI, he is still cancer-free. He still goes to work at his job at Midmark Corporation in Versailles, still spends his free time with friends and family, and still embraces each day with his wife, Brooke, and their three daughters, Addison, 5, Laurel, 3, and Myla, 1.
Among the supporters gathered at Saturday’s walk were many members of Ben’s graduating class of 2011 of Covington High School. Chelsea Bowman, a long-time friend of Ben’s, mentioned that it looked like all of Covington had gathered to walk in honor and support of Ben.
“Knowing each other 13 years, you can’t not help when someone needs it. It’s amazing to see this many people out here — I wasn’t expecting this big of a crowd, and I’m glad we could come out and do this,” Bowman said. “It’s amazing to see this many people in Covington at one time.”
Josh Boehringer, a friend and former teammate of Ben’s from their football and baseball days, didn’t think twice about showing up to support a friend he’s had since childhood.
“When something this bad happens, we have to rally around each other and support each other. I’ve been part of many benefits like this and it’s amazing how a small town like Covington rallies around everybody, picks people up and takes care of them,” Boehringer said.
Many friends of Ben’s reflected on his energy, which has been infectious at times, and how he has always had the ability to make others smile and laugh and keep everyone around him motivated — something they all wanted to do for him during an uncertain time.
“During football, we’d get in huddles and Ben would pump everybody up, practices and stuff. I just remember sticking by each other when times are tough,” Boehringer said.
“I remember for an assembly — he and other boys in our class danced to that N’Sync song, Bye Bye Bye,” Kristina Hogan said. “That was the funniest and coolest thing. That’s my favorite memory — that was awesome. They had to have practiced that for hours.”
Hogan, another classmate of Ben’s, traveled from Massachusetts back to Ohio for the walk in order to show support for Ben.
“It was a no-brainer. I don’t even live in Ohio anymore, but I had to come out to support Ben,” Hogan said.
Following the walk, participants flooded into the Eagles event room, where everything from silent auction items, a 50/50 raffle, a bake sale and a mug slide was held to continue the fundraising for Ben’s family. Event co-organizer Kayla Thiebeau helped keep things inside organized, while several members of Ben’s graduating class helped convert cash into tickets for the raffle and auction. Many participants walked away with things like a new grill, a half of a hog, tickets to an Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Rutgers game on Oct. 1 (along with all the Buckeye gear a fan could want), and tickets to Kenny Chesney’s Here and Now tour stop in Columbus on Aug. 18, among other items.
“Thank you to everyone who came out to the event today! Words can’t begin to describe how appreciative we are for the outpouring of love, support and prayers,” Brooke said following the close of the event.