OAK HARBOR, Ohio — The small town of Oak Harbor is coming together for one of its own. Oak Harbor Police and school resource officer Loren Welch is fighting non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
The community is planning a chicken BBQ fundraiser for Friday, Jan. 22 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Oak Harbor High School. Neighbors say Welch's spirit has touched many parts of the community.
"Anybody you talk to from Oak Harbor, whether they're with the school, the police department, everyone just has high regards for him," said Roseann Hickman with the Fraternal Order of Police #34 Ottawa County.
Welch is the school resource officer for Benton-Caroll-Salem school district. Last summer, he was injured in a high-speed chase. Follow-up scans showed masses and he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. School leaders say he's a role model for the students.
"They think so highly of him and when you talk to any student at Oak Harbor schools, they will tell you what a wonderful person he is," Hickman said.
In addition to being the school resource officer, Welch is also a mentor and basketball coach.
"He is what they call 'plugged in'," said superintendent Guy Parmigian. "He's coaching for us and he's a mentor. He's someone our students can look up to."
Community members started a GoFundme right away to help with medical expenses. Last fall, the students welcomed him back with signs and messages of love and support.
"I think it was important for them to be involved," said Hickman, "and let them know that they're on their side and they're supporting him and they're there to fight with him."
"He's a tremendous guy who's resilient," said Parmigian. "His battle against cancer is really a model for all of us on what it means to be resilient and to persevere."
All proceeds from Friday's meal and raffles will go toward helping Welch and his family.
"This is an opportunity for families in a small town to teach their children about giving back to the community," Hickman added.
Parmigian says small towns like Oak Harbor always come together for one of their own.
"We treat each other like family and we're there for each other and when people are in need, people rally," he said. "And it's impressive and it's humbling and it's something very special."
Organizers say they're already expecting over 500 dinner orders and ask that you order in advance. If you'd like to order or help out, call Oak Harbor Police's non-emergency line 419-898-2055.