Former Ashland resident Korey Pierce and his wife Amy, who now live in Bristol, had a once in a lifetime experience seeing Korey's favorite quarterback, Drew Bries, play in Cincinnati this fall, thanks to the generosity of First Star Tonight and many others. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
January 17, 2019PLYMOUTH – First Star Tonight, located at 75 Main St. in Plymouth, is a local nonprofit organization that seeks to assist in the needs of children and young adults facing chronic or life threatening illnesses, and this fall, they took on the opportunity to make life a little better for a young adult they have dealt with for several years.
"We've worked with Korey on several occasions with things like buying him a laptop computer and backpack. When we heard recently that he had a bad prognosis and had to stop working for a while, we wanted to do something to make him smile," said Moe Lafreniere of First Star.
Korey Pierce, who grew up in Ashland but now lives in Bristol, was first introduced to First Star Tonight in March of 2007 after he was diagnosed at the age of 19 with Aplastic Anemia. The discovery came when he developed a bad throat infection and displayed symptoms of bruising and bleeding in his gums.
He didn't respond to drug treatments, and in time, it was decided he needed a bone marrow transplant.
"First, they searched my siblings for possible donors, but my brother didn't match," Pierce said.
As the search continued, he was put on a bone marrow transplant list in the U.S. but eventually a donor was found in Germany when a young man joined the list in hopes of helping a friend's mom.
"He wasn't a match for her, but it turned out he was a match for me," Pierce said.
Arrangements were made and the transplant finally took place in May of 2008 at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. It was two years however before the two men met.
But that's just another piece of Pierce's story.
In the meantime, he had been in and out of DHMC for years, dealing with the transplant and other consequences of his illness. During that time, he came to know an oncology nurse named Amy. The two fell in love, and eventually got married. His German transplant donor was one of the guests.
"It was really great that he was able to come to our wedding, then he came again the next year just for a visit," Pierce said.
Also in attendance at the wedding were nurses and 16 members of the Ashland Fire Department. Pierce had been a member of their Fire Explorers program since eighth grade, served throughout his illness as a president of their Fire Fighters Association, and is now a part-time member of the department.
And while that seems like a fairy tale ending, life has still not been easy for Pierce.
The consequences of both his illness and his transplant have left him with a fake hip, a fake shoulder and lung issues that crop up every now and again from his treatments. Some days are better than others, but Pierce makes the most of them all, and always has a most capable nurse by his side.
When First Star Tonight heard Pierce was having more medical issues early this fall, they decided they needed to step in again and boost his spirits. They knew he was an avid fan of Drew Bries and the New Orleans Saints, and a plan started to hatch from there.
The Saints were scheduled to play in Ohio on Nov. 10, so they quickly arranged to get he and his wife tickets to the game, airfare to Cincinnati and hotel accommodations for the weekend. They didn't stop there, though.
Lafreniere said they knew Tilton's Police Chief, Robert Cormier, was involved with the Make a Wish Program, and had many contacts. One phone call made the trip even more special.
"Everything went into high gear from there," Lafreniere said. "Bobby knew an officer in Cincinnati who met them at the airport, then got passes for them to go down on the field before the game."
Amy and Korey were notified that they were going to see the Saints play about two weeks before the game and began to prepare for the trip. On the day they were to leave for the airport, First Star Tonight and Chief Cormier had yet another surprise. The Tilton chief, Bristol's Police Chief, Jim McIntire, Lt. Kris Bean, and a state police officer provided their limousine with an escort to the airport.
"That was incredible. I couldn't believe how everyone out that together," Pierce said.
His wife was deeply touched by it all, too.
"It was awesome. The generosity they all showed was almost humbling," she said.
As for the game itself, the couple was able to be out on the field to watch the Saints come out of their locker room then stood by as they warmed up for the game. I was a dream come true for the young man who has admired Bries since his early days in college football.
Pierce said none of it would have been possible without his friends from First Star Tonight.
"I want to thank them all for their generosity, kindness and efforts," he said. "It was a pretty surreal experience to be out there on an NFL field with the Saints and Drew Bries. I'm grateful for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cincinnati Police for all they did that day, too."
Pierce, who now works as a dispatcher for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, is feeling better and back on the job, but retains his memories of that special weekend that First Star Tonight made possible.
It's smiles like that that, Lafreniere and fellow board member Liz Figueroa said, that make their volunteerism with First Star tonight so rewarding.
"The fact that we first met him as a young person and have been following through with this is great. Our mission is to help kids and young adults and he certainly fits that," Figueroa said. "It was a 'Community Hug' for him. We're blessed in that we can help, but it's all really from the community that donates the money."
First Star Tonight, founded in 1986, is a solely grass roots organization that receives no government funding whatsoever. They additionally have no expenses for their all-volunteer group other than the services they offer to their clientele in the form of gas cards, computers, backpacks and other immediate family needs for those in the Pemi-Baker Region.
Their annual fundraising gala will be held this year on April 5 at The Barn on the Pemi, behind the Italian Farmhouse on Route 3, and they invite all to join them for an evening of dinner, dancing and fun. Tickets will be on sale soon for this this event but more information on both the event and their mission can always be found online at www.firststartonight.org.