AVOCA — Tom Fritz has served as borough councilman for over 16 years. Now, residents are giving back to him.
Tom, 54, was hospitalized in July at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia after having open heart surgery for a medical condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM.
HCM is a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick and can make it harder for the heart to pump blood.
According to Tom’s wife, Diane, he is currently in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), but he’s improving every day.
“He’s doing a little better but is still in intensive care,” she said. “They’re trying to get him off a ventilator. He’s been laying in a bed for months, so he’s trying to get mobility back. I got him to work the TV remote, which is huge.”
Now, residents are coming together to hold a fundraiser for Tom to help his family pay for travel expenses.
The fundraiser will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 at the West Side Social Club, 711 McAlpine St. The event will include food, beverages, a Chinese auction and raffles.
Former borough mayor Red O’Brien, who grew up with Tom, said helping others out is what Avoca residents do best.
“What normally takes place in Avoca is everybody helps everybody out,” he said. “A few of us were discussing how to help and we decided to have some type of fundraiser. The benefit will help out with expenses for traveling for (Tom’s) wife and family.”
Diane said she was reluctant at first about a fundraisier, but knew it was something that would make her husband happy.
“Honestly, I said, ‘Please, don’t do this,’” she said. “But, they said they weren’t asking for my permission because they love Tom and everyone keeps asking what they can do for Tom. I’m glad they talked me into it… when I told Tom how the community is rallying around him he cried because it’s a very humbling thing and it’s a very beautiful thing.”
O’Brien is one of several people organizing event along with George Mullen, Tom’s first cousin.
“We have five guys on a committee,” said Mullen. “Red O’Brien is in charge of beer, my sister has been in charge of donations, I’ve been letting people know and getting tickets made up. We have other people are volunteering to cook food, set the place up and clean up afterwards.”
Not only does Tom serve on council, but he’s done volunteer work with the Avoca Little League baseball team and the Avoca Youth Basketball team.
“Over Tom’s life he’s been active with the community,” said O’Brien. “Little League baseball, basketball, Tommy was there. Fixing the parks, he was there. That’s why we believe we have to give back to Tom and his family.”
According to Mullen, Tom’s wife and children travel to Philadelphia every weekend and provide updates to the rest of the family.
“Diane sends out emails every day with updates to the whole family,” he said. “Tom has good days and bad days.”
Mullen also noted that heart problems are hereditary in Tom’s family with his dad, brother and two sisters all passing away from heart complications.
With the event quickly approaching, O’Brien hopes for as many people as possible to show their appreciation for Tom and the work he’s done for the community.
“In this town, a lot of us had big families and helped each other out,” he said. “Tommy’s shown support over the years and now it’s time for us to support him.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher