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Local wrestlers fight to provide child’s Christmas

Sue Guinn Legg • Dec 12, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Six-year-old John Batista Blair, a first-grader at Carter County’s Central Elementary School, has had a rough year. So the Gladiators of Wrestling and the Empire Wrestling Coalition will be coming together at the school on Sunday to make sure he has a great Christmas.Diagnosed with stage 3 leukemia in February, John spent the last half of the last school year in a special kindergarten at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. He’s back at Central this year, but because his ongoing treatment makes him susceptible to infections, his classes are held in a special classroom away from the other children. A course of high-dose chemotherapy this fall put him back at St. Jude for most of November. His family has spent most of their money running back and forth to Memphis. They have little left for Christmas, and on Tuesday they were still without a Christmas tree.Enter the Gladiators and the EWC. Tank Hurley and his friends and rivals Alex Pain Stratton, O Dog, Terrance TKO Otis, The Relentless J.R. Reynolds, Johnny Walker, National Wresting Association Champion Jeff Conley and several other contenders will all be at Central on Sunday “to give this kid a Christmas he will never forget,” Hurley said.Doors will open at 3 p.m. and the wrestling will start at 5. Admission is a suggested $5 donation or a new unwrapped toy. All proceeds will be used to provide a most joyous Christmas for young John and his family.Live music and dance performances, a Christmas bake-off, a “throw a pie at a wrestler” competition and appearance by two members of the “The Walking Dead” zombie cast will be held in advance of the wrestling. Conley will headline the show in a championship match against Jeff Justice. The matches will conclude with a “Battle Royal” involving all the wrestlers. The school is located at 352 Taylortown Road, about one mile off the Elizabethton Highway at Smalling Road. For those who cannot attend but wish to help, donations earmarked for the “John Bastista Blair Benefit” may be made by mail to Gladiators of Wrestling, 356 Mosier Road, Johnson City, TN 37601.Home Instead Seniors Care’s Be a Santa for a Senior shopping adoption project for 800 area seniors who will be alone at Christmas is wrapping up, literally, with a gift-wrapping party to begin at 6 tonight at Faith Free Will Baptist Church at 824 N. State of Franklin Road.The public is invited to join the wrapping of hundreds of gift boxes for nursing home and senior housing residents in Johnson City, Jonesborough, Erwin, Elizabethton, Kingsport, Bristol and Greeneville who are expected to receive little else for Christmas.Gifts for the seniors have been provided by charitable Christmas shoppers who selected their names and needs lists from Home Instead’s Be a Santa for a Senior trees and wreath located at Tri-Cities area Belk stores and hospitals in Johnson City and Greeneville. When the last of the gifts were picked up from the tree and wreath locations on Tuesday, Tracy Kendall, community service representative for Home Instead, reported gifts for all but 80 of 800 seniors who went up for shopper adoption were turned in. Home Instead volunteers are shopping now for the seniors who are still without gifts and will deliver packages to all the seniors in the days leading up to Christmas.The seniors’ needs have been identified by local nonprofit senior service agencies and their Christmas wishes are modest and most often include small comfort items or warm articles of clothing. Those who wish to provide packages for the forgotten seniors are invited to bring their gifts tonight wrapping party or to call Kendall at 483-3453 for more information.Monetary gifts to help with the final Be a Santa for a Senior shopping are welcome and may be made by mail to Home Instead Senior Care, 3314 Wayfield Drive, Johnson City, TN 37601.The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree shopping adoption program for more than 2,800 low-income children in Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties is also coming down to the wire. Gifts for the Angel Tree children are due back at the trees on Friday and will be distributed next week.While all of 2,817 children included in last year’s Angel Tree distribution were adopted by area shoppers, gifts for about 100 of those children were never turned in. As it does each year, the Salvation Army prepares to provide gift packages of new toys and clothing for each of the forgotten Angel Tree children and with its annual reminder for shoppers to return their gifts to Angel Trees has also made an appeal for donations of new toys and clothing for the forgotten Angels.Individual gifts may be dropped off at the Angel Trees at The Mall at Johnson City and Walmart stores in Johnson City and Elizabethton and at the Salvation Army’s offices at 204 W. Walnut St. More information about the Angel Tree may be obtained by calling the Salvation Army 926-2101.The many pieces of the Johnson City Press Christmas Box food distribution that runs in partnership with the Angel Tree project are coming together and will be ready to roll out Dec. 19 and 20 at Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray and the National Guard Armory in Elizabethton.With one week remaining until the distribution, Art Powers, chair of the Christmas Box board of directors, said donations toward the more than $75,000 cost of the food have passed the halfway mark but are still nearly $30,000 short of the goal.“There’s still time,” Powers said. “The Kiwanis Club gave us some funds today. Stanley Dunbar of the Moody-Dunbar company donated 10 extra cases of sweet potatoes so that there will be two 40-ounce cans in every box. The details are coming together. Packing the boxes happens next week and I think it’s going to be another wonderful year.”For those who wish to help, a $35 donation to the Christmas Box will provide a large turkey, a small ham and large box of holiday groceries and extra staples for each of the Angel Tree children’s families or a $35 grocery shopping gift certificate for a senior or a small household of one or two people.Tax deductible donations to the Johnson City Press Christmas Box may be made by mail to P.O. Box 1387, Johnson City, TN 37605. Because the newspaper covers all the administrative cost of the project, 100 percent of all donations go to the purchase of food.More information about the Christmas Box may be obtained by calling Ron Tipton at the Johnson City Press at 929-3111, ext. 302.

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