May Faces of Health Representative: Richard Fickes
Over a 15-year period, Richard, who was born with spina bifida, has raised
an impressive $76,000 through the March of Dimes' "March for
Babies" event with support from family, friends, and local businesses!
Photo by Fallon's Photography Studio
"I view it as payback," he explained. "I had my first 20
surgeries by the time I was 12, so you can imagine the astronomical bills
my parents had to pay. My dad had accepted a job at PPG and was transferring
to Meadville, but our hometown hospital wanted to be compensated before
we left. Even though payments were being made regularly, there was still
a substantial unpaid balance. After contacting the March of Dimes, they
stepped in and paid the remainder of the bills. I will never forget their
generosity and the burden that was lifted from my parents."
"I have always believed that your strength is your freedom,"
Richard continued. "I was born with a disability and don't have
use of my legs, but that doesn't keep me from being active."
In junior high, he started lifting weights. With no elevator available
and some of his classes located on the upper floor, it was imperative
that he stregthen his core muscles to be able to navigate the stairs.
He also enjoyed playing ping pong, and during college he participated
in wheelchair sports such as basketball and touch football. Today, he
can frequently be seen playing pool or cruising across Woodcock Dam at
a brisk pace.
Richard obtained a degree in accounting from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
and worked for a leasing company following graduation. He later taught
at the Computer Systems Institute in Meadville until he was physically
unable to continue. "I am fortunate to have had those years,"
Richard said. "Some people with disabilities never get that opportunity."
"I remember when Nancy Rybacki, who was associated with the Veterans
of Foreign Wars Post 2006, approached me about joining their team for
WalkAmerica. Before agreeing, I had to drive the route and make sure I
was physically able to participate. I enjoyed the challenge and successfully
completed the walk on 15 separate occasions," Richard said with a smile.
"Because of my aging vehicle and my aging body, this was my last
year," he continued. "The
March for Babies
, as it is called now, changed locations over the years and the length
of the course has been revised, but I feel privileged to have met the
Research has shown that taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy
lowers the risk of certain birth defects such as spina bifida. In fact,
it was the March of Dimes Foundation that made the discovery thanks to
research dollars that were generously donated. Richard agreed to be interviewed
not for the accolades, but to bring attention to a cause that is near
and dear to his heart. He has seen firsthand all the good that comes when
communities pull together to raise funds for the fight against premature
births, birth defects and infant mortality; an astounding $76,000. Thank
you for your efforts, Richard!
We are proud to introduce our May Faces of Health Representative, Richard Fickes.