Helping one of their own

Dustin Gillispie (center) is joined by his family on the basketball court on Saturday prior to the start of a basketball ball game during a fundraiser for his benefit. Gillispie was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Dustin Gillispie (center) is joined by his family on the basketball court on Saturday prior to the start of a basketball ball game during a fundraiser for his benefit. Gillispie was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Basketball fundraiser benefits Brethren High School alumni

BRETHREN — The stands in the Brethren High School gymnasium were nearly full to capacity on Saturday afternoon for a basketball game. But the crowd wasn’t cheering on the Bobcats.

Instead, two teams made up of players from area high schools who graduated from 1997 to 2005 gathered to raise money for one of Brethren High School’s alumni.

Mark Dilloway, Dustin Gillispie and Brandon Gillispie share a hug on Saturday at Brethren High School prior to the start of a charity basketball in honor of Dustin. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Mark Dilloway, Dustin Gillispie and Brandon Gillispie share a hug on Saturday at Brethren High School prior to the start of a charity basketball in honor of Dustin. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Dustin Gillispie, a 2001 Brethren High School graduate, was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in 2017 and has been undergoing treatment at the University of Michigan Hospital since November.

“It’s an honor for me to be here to support him and his family,” said former Brethren principal Wayne Bernier told the crowd prior to the start of the game. “It doesn’t really seem that long ago that we were in this gym watching Dustin and his teammates running up and down this floor. In so many ways it’s like coming back home again for me and for many of our players as well.”

The fundraiser, which also included a silent auction, raffle, 50/50, bake sale, concessions, free throw competition and photo booth, was organized by Gillispie’s best friend Mark Dilloway.

Before introducing Gillispie and his family to the 600-700 people in attendance on Saturday, Dilloway told the crowd that when he was trying to think of what he’d say that day, he asked his mother to dig out his old varsity jacket.

“One of the things that stood out to me was the letter on that jacket — the B. It’s more than just a Bobcat jacket; it’s home — whether it was the home turf on the football field, home court, your hometown,” he said. “A lot of you guys are Brethren alumni. This is a chance to come home and help one of your own. For the rest of you that are not Brethren alumni, it shows the power of community coming together to help somebody that you may not know.”

A fundraiser basketball game, dubbed the "Shootout at the Blue Zoo" was held on Saturday at Brethren High School to benefit Dustin Gillispie a Brethren alum who was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in January 2017. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

A fundraiser basketball game, dubbed the “Shootout at the Blue Zoo” was held on Saturday at Brethren High School to benefit Dustin Gillispie a Brethren alum who was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in January 2017. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Gillispie said he wouldn’t have made it where he is without his wife, family and a lot of good friends. He explained how much meant it to see all the people in the crowd.

“Laying in those cold hospital beds, getting needled and you name it, it does matter because that’s the times that you think about the people that helped and the people that you love,” he told the crowd.

Gillispie said his diagnosis is rare because of his age and how advanced it is.

“It shut my right kidney down, which is what took me to the hospital,” he said. “I just had pain over there for eight or nine months. One night I couldn’t take it anymore; they thought I had kidney stones. They did a scan and said ‘no.’ It’s this transformed lymphoma which takes on many forms. They’re not sure which, but the treatment is the same for all of them to start with.”

A scan in January 2017 showed two tumors that were less than a centimeter in size. By October, one had grown to the size of a softball and the other was the size of a racquetball.

“The size has been cut in half of the biggest tumor, so it’s the size of a racquetball and the racquetball one is gone, from the treatment,” Gillispie said. “They’re hoping to get the rest of it. It’s extremely rare that someone who is 35 gets this cancer. It’s also extremely rare that it grows that fast and that it’s that advanced.

“It’s real aggressive and real bad. They’re treating it as the real bad (form of lymphoma) because they don’t know which one it is.”

Gillispie is currently in partial remission, but is still undergoing treatment.

The fundraiser brought in more than $13,000 to help the Gillispie family with medical bills, lodging for chemo treatments, gas and expenses for travel, said Dilloway on Sunday.

“We had a great turnout,” he said. “It was awesome.”

A free throw competition was held on Saturday during a fundraiser basketball game for Dustin Gillispie. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

A free throw competition was held on Saturday during a fundraiser basketball game for Dustin Gillispie. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

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Posted by Michelle Graves

Michelle is the managing editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3106 or mgraves@pioneergroup.com.

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