The Long Beach Lions will hold a virtual Bingo game May 1 to raise funds for 5-year-old Tyler Lipsky, who in July 2016 developed a fever that persisted, and persisted.
Then the situation turned worse.
Tyler was just over a year old that summer, and his worried parents, Stephanie and Rob Lipsky, of Oceanside, took him to Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, now NYU Langone Health.
Concerned doctors sent him to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In May 2017, Tyler underwent a stem-cell transplant. The doctors there had discovered that he had acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, a disease in which abnormal white blood cells produced in the bone marrow crowd out normal ones, making it difficult for the patient to fight off infection.
“The illness has left him paralyzed,” Stephanie said, and today Tyler uses a wheelchair.
He will turn 6 on June 11. The family now needs a wheelchair lift so Tyler can go up and down the stairs. “I’m carrying him now on my back,” his mother said. They also use a ramp on the side of the house to help Tyler get into the car.
“I’m trying to make the house a little more accessible for Tyler,” Lipsky said. The family is still recovering from the shock of the diagnosis. Stephanie and Rob are separated, but have remained close.
Two weeks ago, the Long Beach Lions stepped in. Club President Allen Schwartz set up the Bingo game through a Connecticut-based company, Everything Happens For A Reason Fundraising.
There will be six games played, in the hope of raising about $6,000 for the lift and ramp, Schwartz said. Any money left over will go to buy a guide dog, he said.
In 2017, the Lipskys held a raffle and auction fundraiser, collecting about $25,000 to help cover medical and other expenses. About 200 people attended the event, at Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall in Wantagh.
But the family’s needs have changed drastically. Lipsky had to leave her substitute-teaching job in the Hewlett-Woodmere School District to care for Tyler, and insurance does not cover all costs. Rob Lipsky, 45, said that at one point, their insurance company refused to pay for a new wheelchair for Tyler.
“They said he has one,” Lipsky said. “It’s been a nightmare. But I’m glad he’s here. I have to put one foot in front of another and keep on going.”
Stephanie said that she was talking with a neighbor with a special-needs child two weeks ago, and when the neighbor heard what Tyler needed, she contacted Schwartz.
“The neighbor said the child is from Oceanside,” Schwartz said, and she wondered whether the Long Beach Lions would help. “I said it doesn’t matter where a child is from,” Schwartz said. “A child is a child.”
He contacted Everything Happens For A Reason, which was established in 2019, according to its president, Deanna Adams. Before the pandemic, the company ran live Bingo games, but has gone virtual since.
“People have adapted to the online games,” Adams said. The company held drive-in Bingo games during the pandemic, and plans to resume them this spring.
After registering, participants receive their Bingo cards, and then a link to the games. Anyone who would like to sign up for the games can call (860) 550-3249 to register. The company charges $20 to play.
Stephanie Lipsky said that Tyler is now cancer-free, and attends Oceanside Pre-K and Kindergarten Center. But a high relapse rate — AML returns in about 20 percent of cases — still has his parents concerned.
Tyler is the only child in the school who is in a wheelchair, his mother said. She was worried about how he would get along with the other children, but he made two good friends.
Tyler is a huge fan of Spider-Man. “His two friends gave him Spider-Man T-shirts for his upcoming birthday,” Stephanie said. “It touched my heart.”