Update: FFA students and community rally behind teacher

Ty Phillips
Ty Phillips, a Wilmington freshman, worked to remodel this pedal tractor and is now raffling it off for a good cause.

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. — Members of the western Pennsylvania community of New Wilmington continue to offer their support of Brett McKelvey, the 7-month-old baby born with a heart defect.

Brett’s story was shared in Farm and Dairy in January, and nationally, after a local FFA student, Ty Phillips, began a fundraiser to raise funds for McKelvey’s medical expenses.

Phillips restored a John Deere 520 pedal tractor and is selling raffle tickets.

Related: See Reporter Kristy Foster’s original story.

So far, about 1,500 tickets have been sold, with another 1,500 distributed throughout local stores, and another 2,000 that have been ordered. The winner will be drawn in May.

Making the news

Phillips, a freshman at Wilmington High School, was featured in a Feb. 18 edition of Youngstown Channel 33’s Hometown Heroes. The news crew visited his high school and congratulated him for his generosity.

“It was kind of a surprise,” said Gail Phillips, his mother, adding that the story has now “gone global.”

But the main focus is still on Brett, who some of the locals are now calling “superman” for all he’s overcome. Brett had surgery on his heart this past week at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, and continues to get a little better each day.

“Every day he gets weaned off of something,” Said Joanna McKelvey, Brett’s mother and the local agriscience teacher and FFA adviser.

His heart rate is still fluctuating, but getting better as adjustments are made to his medication.

Ticket information

Tickets for the tractor have been selling across the country, with local equipment dealerships and local stores selling the most.

“It means a lot,” McKelvey said. “I’m overwhelmed with the amount of support that our family has gotten.”

It’s been a busy time for the whole McKelvey family, especially now that it’s FFA week. But McKelvey said her substitute teacher, and her students, are doing a good job of promoting FFA in her absence.


• The tickets cost $3 each, or two for $5. To buy a ticket, call 724-651-5294, or 724-651-9900.

• You can also send a check made out to the Brett McKelvey Donation Fund, 4217 Hillsville Road, Pulaski, PA 16143. If you’d like an electronic receipt and ticket, include your cell phone number.
• You can also make a monetary donation to the Brett McKelvey Donation Fund at any First National Bank.

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