A Friend In Need

2012-Aug-15 -> from the cliche-blog-post-titles department Tags: reglue kenstarks 

I read a blog post from a good friend today that nearly brought me to tears. Not because the situation is sad (though it is very sad), but because I feel so helpless to do anything about it.

So before I go any further, go to The Blog of Helios and read all about it, then come back.

Ken Starks is a good man.

He's worked hard all his life, fought for his country, and was forced into an early retirement by an unfortunate injury.

Ken Starks is a great man.

Even a broken back couldn't keep this man down. As a result of the injury that ended his career, he began a new one, though you can hardly call it a career. More like a crusade: To bring computers to those children whose families can't afford them, and to teach them how to use them.

A Child's Exposure to Technology Should Never Be Predicated On The Ability To Afford It

That's the mantra that has driven the Helios Project, and later Reglue. Seven years and 1100 computers later, Ken Starks has accomplished more good in this world than most of us will accomplish in a lifetime. Words can not capture the full extent to which this man has improved the world, and still, even with cancer consuming his larynx and invading the rest of his body, he's working to ensure that Reglue continues.

This man doesn't know how to be selfish.

I've been trying to help him in the best way that I can, by donating a portion of my royalties to Reglue to help fund this drastically underfunded organization. To date, that has amounted to a meager $150. What can I say, my sales have not been stellar.

I want to help him more than that, but don't bother buying my book to do that. See, Ken has some immediate needs, and even with a drastic influx of book sales, it would still take 60+ days to get the money from Amazon. That's just not good enough.

The chemotherapy treatments have left Ken with an eye condition that makes it impossible for him to look at a back-lit screen for any length of time (>10 minutes). There are monitors out there designed specifically with this condition in mind, but they are expensive. So this is my first goal: Raise enough money to buy Ken one of these devices.

Ken's second immediate need is medication. Since he has started to receive social security payments, he's been notified that he now makes too much money to qualify for the insurance that has been covering his medication. That runs him about $680/month. Here's the catch: If we give the money directly to Ken, it creates bigger problems for him because he has to claim it as income, which could disqualify him for his disability payments. Ken needs every penny he can get. So here's goal #2: Raise enough money to buy Ken's medication for a substantial period.

There's one last thing that Ken needs, and this will be the biggest of them all. Ken requires surgery to remove his larynx and lymph node that are still sporting live cancer cells. He doesn't have insurance, and it's unlikely that any insurance company will agree to cover a man with stage 4 cancer. Surgery costs a lot of money unless his doctor can find a surgeon willing to do the surgery for free. So here's goal #3: raise enough money to pay for the surgery for Ken, or find a surgeon willing to go to Austin, TX and do the surgery for free. I imagine the latter is the more likely case, but you never know.

The world is a better place with Ken on it. I promise you this. He's endured more pain, more suffering, and more heartache than any man should ever have to endure, and still finds it in himself to wake up in the morning and do something great. He brought us the Helios project, largely funded out of his own pocket, and later morphed it into Reglue and made the appropriate arrangements to have it continue. Nobody asked him to. He did it because it made the world a better place for at least some children.

If you can help with any of these goals, I implore you to come forward. Ken hasn't asked me to do this, and would probably tell me not to if he knew I was. But he has a heart of gold, and needs the help.

PayPal donations can be made here:

Donations are now closed. THANK YOU to everyone! :)

$50,000 raised!

Donations to this fund are not tax deductible for federal income tax purposes.

If you prefer another arrangement, email me using the Contact Me link at the top and we can talk. I will ensure that every penny donated goes toward one of the three goals above, and if more money comes in than required, any surplus will go directly to Reglue.

The best thing you can do to help (besides donating) is spread the word about this wonderful man and his dilemma. Use the tweet, +1 and Facebook buttons below to spread the word.

No amount of help is too little!

Thanks for reading!

I'm always interested in hearing what you have to say. Contact Me, I'd love to hear from you.

Don't forget to join in on the conversation in the comments section below.

23 Comments(3 Pending Approval):

By Dave Price (tuxdude) on Thu 16 Aug 2012 03:01:54 pm [ Reply ] Have donated a small amount to Ken. Wish it could be more but under some financial constraint I am afraid.

I can only wish all the guys and gals in the linux world will club together and help bring some relief to a good man.

By Anonymous on Thu 16 Aug 2012 03:33:39 pm [ Reply ] http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/yc5g1/man_who_provides_lowincome_families_and_young/

By Anonymous on Thu 16 Aug 2012 06:47:40 pm [ Reply ] http://www.reddit.com/r/Assistance/comments/ycgyh/man_who_provides_lowincome_families_and_young/

By erin on Thu 16 Aug 2012 08:33:30 pm [ Reply ] Have donated, hope it helps

By Thomas A. Knight on Thu 16 Aug 2012 10:32:51 pm [ Reply ] Dave, Erin: Thank you! No amount of help is too small. Ken is worth it. :)

By Jenny Milchman on Fri 17 Aug 2012 12:19:40 am [ Reply ] Thomas, I admire you for taking on Ken's crusade, as I said when you first blogged about his Project. There are so many people who need help, but Ken clearly has stories left to tell. I'll be in touch or donate something.

By Thomas A. Knight on Fri 17 Aug 2012 12:42:01 am [ Reply ] Jenny: Thanks for your kind words. It means a lot to me to have you come and visit.

An Update for Everyone: We have accomplished Goal #1 and paid $500 for Ken's new monitor. The hope is that this will allow Ken to get back online. But we are far from finished. Ken's surgery is the next priority as a very kind individual stepped up and paid for Ken's month in medication in full.

Thanks to everyone who has donated and helped raise $3,000 so far. Let's see if we can bring in the rest. :)

By Diane Franklin on Fri 17 Aug 2012 11:40:30 pm [ Reply ] I am Ken's life partner and wish to thank everyone for their contribution. We are a long ways from being where we need to be but every little bit gets us closer. I have tried umpteen ways I can think of to raise funds for Ken's medical needs, and you are answering our prayer. If anyone has any other suggestions, please contact me thru my email address or Helios. Thank you all again!

By Magnus Koch on Sun 19 Aug 2012 02:30:01 am [ Reply ] Living in a country where helth care is tax funded and you always receive the help you need it's almost unbelievable that anyone don't receive care because he can't raise the money! Just wish I could have made a bigger donation.

By Thomas A. Knight on Sun 19 Aug 2012 07:33:49 am [ Reply ] $11,000 so far, and still going strong. The outpouring of support for this is amazing. My most humble thanks to all contributors.

Even though we are still far from our goal, this has been far more successful than I ever thought possible. Thank you.

By Nathan Smith on Sun 19 Aug 2012 01:00:47 pm [ Reply ] Donated. Get well, Ken.

By Paul Fernhout on Sun 19 Aug 2012 07:12:49 pm [ Reply ] Read about this on Slashdot in a post by "arielCo". Sometimes knowledge can help more than money by itself. I assembled several links about vitamin D, iodine, and eating more vegetables and fruits -- all of which have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer (including recurrences) and in some cases help with its management and even cure. This post has them collected together: https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!msg/virgle/QukA-eEPXVg/wfx2adEdeGYJ[1-25]

But you can just search on those topics and cancer to learn a lot more on your own. Finding out all the above would not have been possible before the spread of cheap computing. Thanks go to Ken for helping with that.

As cheap computing makes everything else cheap by better design, automation, AI, and robotics, eventually our economics are going to have to radically change, probably towards some mix of a basic income, a gift economy, local subsistence by 3D printing and solar PV (or maybe someday hot/cold fusion), and better planning at all levels of government. Until then, we're going to continue to see the tragedy of a country so full of abundance like the USA turning its back on people who helped make it a better place. The scarcity-based ideology that dominates public policy and the overall culture in the USA is a poor match for the age of abundance made possible by 21st century technology (which is more and more akin to magic like Arthur C. Clarke suggested). Until that socio-economic paradigm changes, we may see more and more shocking examples of the materially richest country in the world behaving like the spiritually poorest. The late James P. Hogan wrote a great sci-fi novel about that in the early 1980s called "Voyage From Yesteryear". I hope more authors, like yourself, would continue to take on that theme in their writings in their own way -- the irony of the tools of abundance (including modern medical knowledge) in the hands of those thinking in terms of scarcity. But of course that does not help much with the immediate need.

By Mark Unwin on Mon 20 Aug 2012 12:26:04 am [ Reply ] Have thrown in some money from down under. Get well Ken - you are in our prayers.

By Steve Brennan on Mon 20 Aug 2012 01:42:20 am [ Reply ] I have donated a small amount, I sincerely wish it could be more. I've never met Ken, but I've followed his work. Please let him know that my wife and I hold him in our prayers and hope that everything works out well.

By Mike G. on Mon 20 Aug 2012 03:36:00 pm [ Reply ] America is a great country! But I am glad I don't live there. What country lets good people die? Things like this do not happen in The Netherlands! For all those that are going to vote for Romney: Donating here isn't going to get you into heaven. I guess the average American is too stupid and selfish to care about his or her neighbour to vote for a health plan for everyone. I hope your friend survives!

By Thomas A. Knight on Mon 20 Aug 2012 04:13:31 pm [ Reply ] I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who has donated thus far. We're not finished yet, so please, keep on sharing this everywhere you can. We can make a difference here.

Mike G.: I'm Canadian myself, so healthcare is not really an issue for me. The idea that people in the U.S. are being turned away from life-saving surgery because they don't have the money to pay for it is appalling to me. Their healthcare system is broken, and I have no way to fix it. But for somebody like Ken who is not only my friend, but also a great man who has given up countless hours of his time and effort to bring computers to those who need them most, I will throw down the gauntlet to the community and ask them to save his life, because it's obvious that the U.S. Government isn't willing to do so.

By Dan Chant on Mon 20 Aug 2012 05:44:06 pm [ Reply ] Good luck Ken, I've spared as much as I can. I lost a wonderful Aunty to Cancer earlier this year. Hopefully humanity will club together and give you back a little of what you have given others so you can beat this.
Dan, UK

By Mikael on Mon 20 Aug 2012 09:48:15 pm [ Reply ] It's sick that any hospital in any country can say no to saving a mans (or womans) life based on money. Donation will arrive on fri when it's payday.

THis will work out great for you, I have a belief that people are good.

By mp on Tue 21 Aug 2012 03:10:30 am [ Reply ] donated, good luck buddy!

By Nick on Sat 25 Aug 2012 01:51:43 am [ Reply ] Just asking, is it possible for him to travel to a country where he could have his surgery for free? As an example, here in argentina, doctors have the legal obligation to attend their patients in public hospitals, no matter where they are from. That, and the fact that there are very good professionals working in public hospitals (almost evry doctor works in public AND private sector) makes that lots of people from neighbouring countries come here in whts called medical tourism. Maybe not very ethical (paying with other country's taxes) but who cares when someone you love is at risk. I'd think about it as an option.

By A on Sat 25 Aug 2012 05:18:08 am [ Reply ] On hackernews - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4430020

By Daniele on Sat 25 Aug 2012 07:02:02 am [ Reply ] come in italy, you will be operated for free...

By Thomas A. Knight on Sat 25 Aug 2012 07:54:34 am [ Reply ] Nick: Through the efforts of this campaign, we have actually found a surgeon who is willing to do the surgery for a fraction of what it would have cost. He's ranked in the top 10 ENT's in the U.S. and has been very good to Ken already.

I want to thank everyone for their very kind support throughout this campaign. We're going to wrap it up, and it looks like I accomplished all three goals, and will still have some left for Reglue. Phenomenal. :)

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