WILLIAMSTON, N.C. (WITN) - 2022′s Great Bike Giveaway kicked off Wednesday afternoon. The contest offers families one month to enter their bid for a special bike.
A Martin County family was the recipient of a specialty bike last year. Alston Bullock spent Wednesday morning taking laps around the front yard on his prize.
Squeals of pure excitement were heard from Alston Bullock as he was strapped into the bike, perfect for his needs.
With his brother, Kevin Bullock behind him, the Williamston teen is riding in style.
“The bike helps with outdoor fun,” Alston Bullock’s mother Monica said. “He gets to come outside and enjoy time with his brothers. He’s not sitting in his wheelchair watching them, he’s actually riding around with them.”
The opportunity was made possible by a generous donor and Friendship Circle’s national Great Bike Giveaway campaign.
“Having a child with special needs is challenging enough. It’s a 24/7 job,” Friendship Circle Director Bassie Shemtov said. “So, Friendship Circle really comes in and wants to be there as a family member.”
Entrants have three ways to earn their gifted bikes: by voting, drawing, or fundraising.
Alston Bullock came close to missing out on the opportunity last year until a mystery miracle saved the day.
“We had one donor that donated pretty much the entire bike cost on the very last day,” Monica Bullock said.
The total cost of the bike was more than $1,500.
Monica Bullock suspended physical therapy and other services as the threat of the pandemic took hold, trying to keep her son safe from COVID exposure.
With his bike, Alston Bullock is able to work on those skills safely.
“He’s getting the range of motion in his legs. He’s getting the exercise he needs,” Monica Bullock said.
Always trotting along is Kevin, who is happy to lend a hand to his older brother. And he also gets something in return.
“It feels good to know that I have a good brother just like him and to know that he’s one of the best brothers ever,” Kevin Bullock said.
They are brothers and bicycle buddies, bonding over their shared love of spending time together.
The good news train keeps rolling for Alston. He has been granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
They are going to fund a fully functional, adaptive gym space in which the 15-year-old can play with his brothers and have therapy with his specialists.
Entries for Friendship Circle’s Great Bike Giveaway are open until March 16th. Registration information can be found here.
PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - A Pitt County community center cooked up homemade soups on a chilly weekend as part of a fundraiser to help those in need.
“I guess the groundhog might have been right this time,” said Bill Kazda, a Joy’s Soup Kitchen customer.
Falling temperatures ushered in what some say is the perfect weather for soup, which the chef at Joy’s Soup Kitchen claims he mastered.
“They started calling me Soup-erman,” said Chef Tom Quigley.
Quigley hosts a weekly soup making competition.
After he gained traction online, people wanted a taste for themselves. So by selling jars of his soup,
Quigley uses the revenue to continue cooking and provide the meal services.
“It was just a huge success, and people started saying, ‘Well, what do you got next?’” said Quigley.
He expanded the operations of the soup kitchen by launching the Joy’s Community Center, where he plans to offer free classes to Pitt County residents each Wednesday.
“If there is a service out there that benefits the people in here, I want it in here,” said Quigley. “You might live all the way on the other side of town and you might need the services that this building can offer you. We are all inclusive with the soup, and all inclusive in every walk of life, too.”
As a born and raised Bostonian, Quigley talked about how he introduced his home style of food to Pitt County.
“All of the soups that I’m cooking are New England specials, not southern specials,” said Quigley. “So, it gives them a little extra treat for that.”
With something new on the menu for each fundraiser weekend, it’s hard to choose a favorite.
“We got the brisket and the bean and bacon.” said Kazda. “Brisket was better, but of course, they were both great.”
“Soup-erman” is taking care of his community, one jar at a time.
The next chance to take part in the Joy’s Community Center’s free class offering is February 9 from 6:15 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Virtual learning has taken on a new meaning at H.B. Sugg Elementary School where one student is on wheels this school year.
EJ Lyles made his kindergarten debut using an innovative piece of technology: a VGO robot.
Social and emotional learning is an important skill in early education. This week, Lyle’s classmates are learning about emotions and feeling words.
Happiness and excitement were the dominating emotions and feelings shared by his new friends when Lyles dialed into his classroom.
“Having EJ return and him coming home, we knew that at Sugg/Bundy we needed to teach and take care of and love on him,” principal Ali Setser said.
In October, WITN first told Lyles’s story of a long road to recovery.
He underwent a series of traumas that left him hospitalized at Duke University Hospital.
Lyles had just been involved in a crash that seriously hurt his mom when he began exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Then, Lyles was diagnosed with a MRSA infection that caused several of his organs to begin failing.
Fast forward three months and Lyles’ heart and kidney functions are approaching normal levels.
“I do appreciate how willing and open the school has been just to really get him back on track,” Sophia Lyles, EJ Lyles’ mom said.
“That was one of our fears. When he did come home, how would school go?" said Sophia Lyles, EJ Lyles’ mom
Setser reached out to Karen Harrington, Pitt County Schools director of student services, for options and landed on the VGO robot.
EJ Lyles is able to see, hear, and interact with his classmates from the safety of his home.
The robot wears an #EJStrong t-shirt, something that one donor gifted all 800 students of the H.B. Sugg and Sam D. Bundy school.
Setser inducted the shirt into the school’s spirit day collection, making it uniform-approved on the special dress-down days.
While his classmates admired his shirt, EJ Lyles admired their masks.
“He was really excited about the one kid with the Spiderman mask,” Sophia Lyles said. “It really did enough for him because he’s been jumping off the walls ever since.”
At home, EJ Lyles has made great strides in his recovery, but he doesn’t get to spend much time with other children his age.
“I think it’s important that he’s around kids his age and he realizes, ‘Hey, I’ve been through this and I’ve made it through it and now I’m here.’ That’s a way for him to share what he’s been through and share that he’s just like anybody else,” Olivia Haley, EJ Lyles’ kindergarten teacher said.
Haley has worked with the Lyles family to craft a schedule that includes Lyles in group learning while working around his medical schedule.
Lyles completed a math lesson Wednesday in greater than and less than numbers. He was able to participate with a small group of students to identify the correct answers.
And when Lyles was ready, he would light up his robot to signal his hand being raised.
EJ Lyles will continue to be monitored by a team of doctors, but when he is able to make an in-person debut at school, the H.B. Sugg family is ready to embrace him.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - January is Blood Donor Awareness month, but the American Red Cross says blood supply is dangerously low, causing hospitals to delay critical care until more units can become available.
Every two seconds, someone in the country is in need of a blood or platelet donation, according to the Red Cross.
This year, the Red Cross has a suggestion for any New Year’s resolutions.
“Give one more time in 2022 than you have in the past,” said regional CEO Barry Porter.
Every eight weeks, up to six times a month, you can roll up your sleeve to help save lives.
“You are in the donor bed 15 to 20 minutes after arriving,” said Porter. “You’re only in the donor bed 10 to 15 minutes because that [donation] process only take about 8 to 10 minutes.”
Once your blood donation is collected in the East, the unit and a test tube vial, both labeled with matching barcodes, journey west.
The unit kept cold in Durham and the test tube is sent to Charlotte to be processed. After undergoing a series of tests, the donation is cleared for distribution about 24 to 48 hours after submission.
“Say we donated at 8:00 in the morning,” explained Porter. “The unit of blood probably won’t be available until about 4:00 tomorrow afternoon. When that happens, we can’t wait until an emergency happens and then ask for blood.”
Banks like to keep a few days of supply, but recently, they are experiencing the lowest donations volumes in years.
While blood units are used often in trauma situations such as surgeries, wrecks, or acts of violence, the majority of blood donations go to cancer patients.
“About 1 in every 5 units of blood, actually goes to cancer patients,” said Porter. “If you think about it in your life, you probably know more people who have cancer, who have battled cancer, than you know who have been in a car accident or have been in a traumatic situation.”
One donation goes a long way, saving up to three adult lives.
To be eligible to donate, you must be 16 years-old with parental consent or 17 years-old and up. You are to be in good general health, hydrated, and fed.
After your donation, you’ll want to avoid heavy lifting and stop for a treat at the Red Cross’ canteens on your way out the door.
In honor of National Blood Donor Month, the Red Cross has partnered with the NFL, automatically entering anyone who donated in January 2022 to win a trip to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Bertie County Sheriff’s Deputy Colter Lipscomb continues his recovery after being critically injured when his patrol vehicle hydroplaned on U.S. 13 on Wednesday.
According to his mother, Netta Lipscomb, he is making remarkable progress at Vidant Medical Center.
Lipscomb is sedated and on a ventilator, but he has opened his eyes a few times overnight and responded to his mother’s voice with head nods.
Today, he was able to give doctors a thumbs up.
So far, the deputy has undergone two surgeries. One took place soon after his arrival at Vidant Medical Center, and repaired abdomen and chest injuries and bleeding.
The other, taking place the following day, repaired femur, hip, and pelvic fractures.
“I am in awe of this miracle,” Netta Lipscomb told WITN News.
“His dad and I, along with siblings, other family, and our community, will forever be thankful," said Lipscomb. "Colter is loved and supported by so many in the community.”
For close family friend Lorie Beth Thomas, Colter’s absence is already felt across the county.
“When we found out, it was pretty shattering, because he’s my husband’s best friend and he literally feels like part of our family,” Thomas said.
Thomas is the owner of Kaley Jase Boutique in downtown Windsor. She says Colter would drop into the store unannounced all the time to put a smile on their faces.
“He’s so loved, I think more than he knows,” Kaley Jase employee Renee Harden said. “He’s just made a really huge impact on our community.”
Lipscomb is also often seen at Rachel’s Bakery and Cafe enjoying lunch.
“Colter comes in here quite often,” said Sissie Dunlow behind the counter. “We see him running by the bakery. Often, they come in here to eat. We just think a lot of Colter. He’s a sweet guy.”
The bakery has now started a new tradition to keep Colter and his family in everyone’s prayers.
“Every to-go order that we get comes in a clear plastic tray. We tape one of these ‘Pray for Colter’ [signs] on it, along with a bible verse,” Dunlow said.
Keeping the Lipscomb family in their thoughts, everyone is reflecting on how important Colter’s presence, and his quirks, are to their lives.
“We thank him for the happiness that he brings,” Thomas said. “You never know what he’s going to do. He picks up animals all the time.”
Lauren Belch, who runs with Colter in the summertime, recalls a special moment shared between the two.
“He opened his back door, and he had a stork in a net on his back seat just walking around,” Belch said.
Fond of animals and a good laugh, Belch isn’t the only target of Colter’s tricks.
“I had a turtle left at my doorstep named Speedy,” Thomas said. “That’s the kind of stuff he does. He’s just funny. You never know when he’s popping in and he just really adds happiness and joy and fun to the community.”
Deputy Lipscomb is anticipated to make a full recovery from his injuries but will need extensive rehabilitation therapy to get there.
When he makes his return to Bertie County, his community has promised to help him, every step of the way.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Millions of people around the world stayed awake late Friday night to countdown to the New Year, but a group of Pitt County residents set their alarms early to usher in the New Year with a 5K Fun Run.
Hosted by Fleet Feet in Greenville, the run’s focus is to encourage obtainable fitness goals in the community and to support a local cause.
“One of the things we like to do is start this year with a goal. The goal is to be active-- a runner or walker,” said Fleet Feet owner Chris Loignon. “We’re happy to be the hub for the community when it comes to that.”
Loignon knows how it feels to look ahead at a daunting fitness goal. So, this year’s free Fun Run came without a timer clock.
“I’ve been running for 11 years, but I remember the first time I ran I didn’t run the whole time. I started as a walker, then a run-walker, then got into running,” said Loignon.
By following their motto of “small steps,” the Fleet Feet team wants to set examples of integrating healthy activities into daily life.
“That’s the beauty about being a runner or a walker,” explained Loignon. “You don’t have to pay for a membership. The gym is outside. Just pick up a beautiful day and head on out the door. And then you just go from there.”
The Fleet Feet team has some advice to start strong and keep up with your goals.
“Have accountability with your fellow runners,” said Fleet Feet general manager Rachel Craft. “It’s hard to get out when it’s cold, when it’s dark. But if you know your friends are there counting on you to show up, it makes it a little bit easier to show up.”
The 5K runners showed up on Saturday to support a local cause.
Fleet Feet has partnered with Pet Food Pantry and will be collecting donations throughout January.
“Each month throughout the year we always have a community partner that we choose to donate a portion of our sales to, raise money for, what have you,” said Loignon. “We already have this year planned out.”
This year, Loignon and his team hope to surpass their 2021 donation total of $30,000 given to the community.
Into the New Year, Fleet Feet will be announcing new changes and training programs for individuals setting marathon running goals.
You can find more information on their offerings here.
BEAUFORT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - This Christmas marks a first for a Beaufort County resident, Rachel Jordan. She is celebrating this year with only one kidney.
She reflects on what it meant to donate so her friend, Jon Anglemyer, could make it through a tough organ rejection.
Their surgeries took place in September at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
“They gave us like a two-week notice. It was like the beginning of September. Rachel texted me and was like, ‘Hey, I got the word. We’re having both of our surgeries on September 15th,’ said Anglemyer.
Now several months recovered, the transplant donor is in much better health.
“My energy levels have sky rocketed,” said Anglemyer. “Everybody tells me my color is so much better and I just have been feeling great. It’s like being given a new lease on life, that’s for sure.”
Jon received his kidney through the Kidney for Life program, where donors and recipients are matched based on DNA compatibility.
Rachel made a donation on his behalf to a toddler in Minnesota. In return, Anglemyer was matched with his own donated organ.
In September, the pair traveled to Minnesota for their surgeries. Just hours apart, the toddler, Gabriel Ryan, also went in for his surgery.
“I got to meet Gabriel’s mother and father the day after and see Gabriel,” said Jordan. “He was still sedated but yeah, I got to meet them right afterwards.”
Baby Gabriel was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. His parents were told to prepare to lose their child.
Thankfully, Gabriel was able to survive in utero until he was delivered at 37 weeks.
“I’m super happy for the boy up in Minnesota,” said Anglemyer. “He’s really been given a new lease on life because basically, they didn’t know what his outcome was going to be until Rachel stepped up and gave him a kidney.”
Going into the year with new kidneys and new goals, both Jon Anglemyer and Baby Gabriel are doing well.
“Just the thought that he can continue his life and see his kids go to college and grow up and do all that,” said Jordan, “and at the same time knowing that we helped someone else and that we get to continue that chain is really special.”
Anglemyer’s first kidney transplant was in done in combination with a liver transplant in his 20s. He is grateful to his friend for giving him another chance.
Especially as all transplant patients run the risk of organ rejection. About 30-percent of people who receive a kidney transplant will experience some type of rejection, usually within the first six month, but it can happen at anytime.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A Robersonville native made his 145th donation of blood in Greenville, bringing his grand total to more than 18 gallons.
Kirk Whitley has donated pints of his blood to the American Red Cross since November 1968.
On Saturday, he rolled up his sleeves again, saving 3 adults or 6 children’s lives with each contribution.
He added one more souvenir t-shirt to his collection and made his final donation of 2021.
He says a lot has changed since his first donation as a high school student.
“Instead of pricking your finger they did your ear and got the iron reading out of your ear,” he laughed.
Now getting his finger pricked every 56 days, 6 times a year, he has quite the collection of scrapbooking treasures to tell the tale.
“Every time, you get a little sticker that tells you when you do give,” said Whitley. “I’ve got a curio cabinet that is glass and I’ve got no telling the stickers that are on that curio cabinet.”
While the country experiences a blood shortage every year around the holidays, the need is especially dire because of the devastating tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest last week.
The American Red Cross told WITN that most donors only contribute once or twice a year.
“Donors like Kirk are the heart of our organization and help maintain that healthy blood supply,” said Cally Edwards of the Red Cross Eastern North Carolina Regional Chapter. “Red Cross blood donors can give up to six times a year, every 56 days. Kirk is one of those examples that does that.”
Whitley is happy to help anyone in need in this way. “But in return, they are helping me,” he said. “This just makes me a better person.”
Others have been inspired by his work, sending him personalized gifts as he hits his milestones.
“I went to the post office one day and this is what I got,” he said holding back tears and holding up a custom t-shirt. “I’ve used these principles: desire, discipline, dedication, and determination. And it has worked for me.”
Whitley doesn’t plan to stop at 145 pints.
“Next year at this time I’m going to have 150 pints, in 2022. Then in 2023, I hope to have 156 pints. In 2024, I’m looking at the big Super bowl, the gold. I’m going to have 162 pints--20 gallons.-- and we’ll kind of go from there.”
If you would like to donate this month, WITN is sponsoring a blood drive at the ENC Blood Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, December 22, 2021.
Both Power Red and traditional blood donations will be accepted.
A Power Red donation collects the red cells but returns most of the plasma and platelets to the donor.
These donors must meet specific eligibility requirements and have A Negative, B Negative, or O type blood.
A tradition blood donation is the most common, during which approximately one pint of “whole blood” is given.
The ENC Donor Center is located at 700 Cromwell Dr. Greenville, NC. 27858.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Hundreds of Greenville residents on Facebook showed their support for a local chef at Harvey’s Breakfast Place on South Memorial.
After Ms. Mary Sergio was rushed to Vidant Medical Center last week, the Harvey’s team shut their doors and focused all of their attention on her recovery.
Back behind the grill one week later, Ms. Mary attributes her speedy recovery to the love, support, and prayers of hundreds of fellow community members.
Walking into Harvey’s, you are immediately met with the smiling face of Ms. Mary.
“When I first got here it was like I had known Mary all my life,” diner patron John Patterson said. “She just makes you feel at home.”
For the owner of Harvey’s, Jay Bastardo, Ms. Mary is an integral piece of the history of the spot.
“Mary is the heart of this operation,” he said. “She’s the person who keeps everybody smiling.”
But smiles turned to panic last week when Ms. Mary collapsed on the job.
“Next thing you know, one of our staff members in the back just screams, ‘Jay! Mary’s down!’” he remembers. “She’s a strong, strong woman. And to see her in that situation, we didn’t take any chances, we’re calling 911.”
Bastardo closed the doors of the Breakfast Place early and posted an update on Facebook, where prayers and healing thoughts were posted in the comment section.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Bastardo said. “Seeing the entire community, not only on Facebook, showing love, but everywhere she goes now she’s being stopped and being asked, ‘Hey Mary! How are you?’”
This is something Ms. Mary isn’t used to.
“I go outside to the Piggly Wiggly and people say, ‘Are you okay?’” she said.
One week later, she is back on the grill, filling orders, and serving breakfast with a smile.
“I feel real good,” Ms. Mary said. “I’m glad to be home again with people who love me. It’s a family I’ve never had before. I’m blessed. God knows I’m blessed.”
Through her cooking, she is able to give everyone that takes a seat a slice of home.
“It’s always going to feel like more than a breakfast,” Patterson said. “You feel like you’re coming home and having a meal with your own mom, your own grandmother.”
Harvey’s Breakfast Place is open from Monday to Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Snorts and squawks were the sounds that marked a new beginning for the Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary in Onslow County as they officially reopened their gates on Sunday.
“We’re trying to let people who love animals have a place to express that love and be able to do things for them,” said sanctuary director Toni O’Neil. “Or just be able to support them financially knowing that there’s a place that’s going to continue to be here forever.”
The sanctuary faced many challenges in the past year, including damage from a hurricane and losing fundraising and volunteer opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newly renovated, O’Neil said they have the opportunity to teach the community about wildlife in North Carolina while also caring for those injured and in need of rehabilitation.
“We get a lot of babies and that people think they can raise themselves or birds of prey,” said volunteer Andrew Baughman. “They think they can keep his pets, but unfortunately, that isn’t best for the animal. They need care to be able to be released back into the wild.”
Care that Baughman is well-versed in, such as with possums.
“You can’t really release a possum with over half of its tail missing,” said Baughman. “They don’t use it to hang like you see in the movies. They do use it for balance and collecting nesting materials.”
Several of the sanctuary’s tenants are educational ambassadors, including a rabbit named Lorette, who is used to educate the public about the dangers of bunny breeding.
“People do breed a lot of rabbits and a lot of domestic animals in general. Domestic rabbits aren’t able to survive in the wild,” said Baughman. “They’re meant to be pets. The big thing with our education ambassadors is to help educate the public on my North Carolina’s wild life is so important to help conserve.”
At 16-years-old, Baughman takes on the educational responsibility fearlessly.
“Getting to know your affecting nature in such a positive way, combating the negative effects of people, getting to release them back into the wild— it’s very fulfilling. If the animals were not here we wouldn’t be here, so it’s pretty important to me to be able to do that as well,” he said.
The fall fundraiser is the sanctuary’s largest source of community income. More than $4,500 of prizes were raffled off to generate funds for continued improvements for the animals.
Guided tours are available daily at the sanctuary located at 119 Doe Dr. Hubert, NC 28539. More information on how to visit or support Possumwood Acres can be found here.