Longaberger basket bingo event to benefit Lowe family

On Nov. 13, from 6 to 11 p.m., a Longaberger basket bingo fundraiser will be held at the Millville Fire Hall, to raise funds for Justin Lowe.

“We’re having this because Justin Lowe is a senior at Indian River High School and he plays football and he dates my daughter Jillian,” explained Gail Zuppo, who is spearheading the fundraiser. “He took her out to the beach for her birthday in June, and while they were waiting for friends to arrive, he jumped back in the water one last time and was paralyzed.”

Zuppo said that she and many others have been trying to continue fundraising efforts for Lowe and decided to hold a Longaberger basket bingo, as it was a fundraiser she had already done with the Indian River Band Boosters.

“A lot of people collect Longaberger baskets, and so because of its popularity there seems to be a lot of interest in having them as prizes instead of a money prize,” said Zuppo. “For this particular event, because it’s so close to the holidays, there’s going to be a cornucopia and there’s going to be some Christmas baskets – some of which are only available through special orders like this.”

There will be more than 20 Longaberger baskets offered as bingo prizes, along with other donated items available from Hallmark, All Out Sports and Baywood Golf as “Chinese” and silent auction prizes, as well as a 50-50 drawing. Bingo will begin at 7 p.m., to give people an hour to check out the auction items and get some food.

“Even individuals who don’t win at bingo can take home something, by bidding on some of the items we have there,” she said.

Zuppo explained that donations to the auctions may be made by anyone and on any theme.

“When people ask me for suggestions, I ask them to maybe put together a bunch of games. If you have a school group, everyone buys a game, you put it in a basket with some popcorn and you could have a family-fun-night basket,” explained Zuppo.

Fox’s Pizza, which donated gift cards for the event, will also be on-site, serving pizza. Hot dogs, sandwiches, brownies, soft drinks, coffee and more will also be available to nosh on during the fundraiser.

Tickets purchased in advance cost $20. They cost $25 at the door. Attendees must be 18 or older. Advance tickets will be on sale in front of the Millville Giant on Sunday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Zuppo said she hopes to also sell tickets at Hocker’s, which has already hosted two fundraisers for the cause.

The Justin Lowe Foundation, which is sponsored by the Peach Tree Severe Brain Injury Association, has raised around $30,000 to date.

“Just from Hocker’s ice cream, they raised $8,000. We have people willing to help and offering to put together things,” explained Jillian Zuppo, Lowe’s girlfriend.

All funds raised for the foundation will go toward Lowe’s recovery and future needs.

“The money goes toward medical expenses — if he needs a new wheelchair, it’ll go toward that… anything medical, like doctor bills that insurance won’t cover,” explained Jillian Zuppo.

“About two weeks ago, the Sheppard’s Center in Georgia said that they could no longer keep him,” she added. “He could stay, but we didn’t make enough money to keep him there to get the rehabilitation there that he needs. If he didn’t progress to a certain point, then the insurance would no longer pay. In Delaware, there aren’t that many facilities for people with severe spinal-cord injuries.

“Now,” Jillian Zuppo noted, “Justin has no use of his hands, and he can’t feel anything from the chest down, but he has improved from where he arrived, where he was paralyzed completely. He couldn’t even breathe on his own. Unfortunately, he didn’t improve enough therefore for them to keep him.

“So our hope with this is, the more money we raise in the community, the more medical care and facilities he’ll be able to seek and be approved for and pay for, through our efforts,” she added. “Regardless of whatever happens in his future, we want to have something that’s there for him to grasp onto.”

Volunteers, family and friends will work at the bingo event. Lowe and his family will even be in attendance to help out, and to have some fun.

Both Zuppos said the amount of community support focused around Lowe has been overwhelming and truly appreciated.

“This is all new to us,” Jillian Zuppo said. “Most people don’t experience this in their lifetime, to have it so close to home… There are people who have injuries – they walk up to us and say, ‘This is what happens… If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.’ The community outpouring of love and support is just unbelievable.”

“There’re people that don’t even know Justin who will send donations in the mail and just want to show their support. It’s amazing. He’s so thankful for everyone’s support,” she said. “I just really hope it comes together and that lots of people will come support him. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and everything goes straight to Justin, so it’s a really good thing.”

For more information on how to help or to attend, contact Gail Zuppo at (302) 670-5520.