SAUGATUCK, Mich. -- For fifty years, Russ and Ginger Wilkinson made Saugatuck a better place. They founded the Halloween parade that draws thousands to the area, made appearances at virtually every community event throughout the year, and for their efforts were awarded Saugatuck’s Citizens of the Year honors…twice.
But hard times can hit even the best of families, and hit hard they did. About five years ago, Ginger’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The couple acted as her main caretakers even as Russ underwent almost ten surgeries for various health issues. Not long after that, Ginger went in for a routine cataracts procedure, and passed away from respiratory arrest.
“We were more than married,” Russ said, “we were joined at the hip. She was the sun that I revolved around.”
After Ginger’s passing, the family discovered more shocking news. The Wilkinson’s daughter Erin was informed that her parents had, in the midst of mounting medical bills and resources for Ginger’s ailing mother, racked up a $214,000 balloon payment on their home of 50 years.
“Originally, when we found out about the balloon payment I thought, well this really sucks, and it’s one more hit that I don’t want to take,” said Erin. “And I thought, I just can’t let this happen without fighting to try to keep it.”
So taking to the internet, Erin set up a GoFundMe Page to help lift the burden of finances – and their community responded. In just over a week, the page has raked in nearly $23,000 and counting. It’s not enough to save the house, but for the Wilkinson’s, the generosity may be enough.
“It’s a pretty humbling experience, I’ll tell you that,” said Russ. “I just don’t know what to do. You know, how do you thank people for supporting you when you’re down and out.”
“Even if we can’t raise enough money, we have the love and support of the community, which is worth so much more,” said Erin. “I hope people can see his goodness and realize that he has been through so much. And he just deserves a break. He’s earned a break, I think.”