Just go straight ahead!

I am writing this to create a clearer picture of who I am, and my struggles with chronic pain since a surfing injury damaged my spine in Santa Cruz, California. I am also coming out to the Buddhist community as someone who has suffered from chronic pain for 25 years, and currently has an Intrathecal Pump.  This pump pushes a small amount of opioids into the space around my spinal cord, called the intrathecal space.  It has also aided greatly in the quality of my life. I have  now been married for 23 years, I have two grown children, I am the abbot of a small temple, and I was recently recognized as a teacher. My medical care, as well as my Zen Practice, have been vital in giving me the strength to march on through times of trial and tribulation.

I grew up in California, and would often take trips to Santa Cruz. One day I was surfing, when a rogue wave bent me in the wrong direction on the sea floor. If anyone reading this surfs, they understand how much force waves truly have. It knocked the wind out of me, and immediately I felt severe pain in my lower back; it was like nothing I had ever felt as a 14 year old. Luckily I had a dry suit on, and it helped me float to shore.  I remember clearly the fear of not being able to swim, luckily the waves aided in getting me back to shore. I laid on the beach in denial, trying to deal with the pain. After a week or so, the pain subsided, and I forgot all about it.  Approximately six years later, I decided to join a gym. I studied under a power lifter who worked with the local youth in Allentown. One day, soon after I started, I bent down to grab a bar off the floor (45 pounds), when I was racked with pain in my lower back. I could not straighten up, and I limped out to my car. I remember that vividly, as I knew something was not right. It took me a month or so to heal. Everything went fine for about another two years, until it happened again. I bent over to grab my car keys, and when I tried to straighten back up, I fell to the ground in pain. I made my way into my work, however, I collapsed soon after. I told my frantic co-manager to call an ambulance, I knew something was really wrong. I end up being admitted in the hospital for a week. I am still in pain months later, so I start going to: chiropractors, herbalists, physical therapists, acupressure, and healing touch practitioners, nothing is working. At this time in my life, I have my own business, I am married, have a house, two young kids, I am enrolled in continuing education, and I had everything a guy could ever want. After the failure of all of those alternative approaches, I moved to western medicine. I ended up going to a neurosurgeon who did various tests on my spine, they come back, I have severe facet/disc disease from L-2 to S-1.  In return, at 26, I underwent a multiple level fusion with pedicle screws and rods. This totally rids me of the shooting pain, and the instability in my back.  I go back to work after a few months of rehab, however, I start feeling a new sensation. It feels as though my foot is on fire, literally. My foot begins to turn red, it swells up and it starts to feel as though the skin is being burned off by a blowtorch. After a couple of months of this, I am referred to a pain management doctor, as there is nothing more the surgeon can do. My pain management doctor looks at my foot and says “I think I know what this is, I think it is RSD”. He takes pictures, does several blocks, as well as other tests to check for sympathetic changes in my leg, and soon confirms it is – RSD. RSD is considered more painful than terminal cancer pain. It is one of the worst nerve diseases you can acquire. It seems the damage in my lumber spine had damaged the sympathetic nerves into my leg. These are the nerves that control sensation (pain) and circulation. My nerves are now lying to my brain. They are now telling my brain my foot is on fire; my nerves are malfunctioning.  We try injections, anti-inflammatorys, anti seizure medication, antidepressants, and when they fail, fentanyl patches. I hated the way fentanyl made me feel, I felt stoned all the time. In return, my doctor told me about something new. It was called an intrathecal pump. He said the IT pump deliverers medication only  the affected area of the spine, and it  only uses 1/300th of the oral dose. So no stoned feeling; I said, “sign me up”! I remember the trial was exciting. When they injected the morphine into my IT space, the pain almost totally went away, it was a miracle. I went through the normal vetting process, MMPI, counseling, substance abuse education, and finally the permanent implant. The implant changed my life, it was as though I was given another chance. Soon after, I worked once again, was ordained as zen monk, raised my children, started a temple, and found gratitude and love for life once again

Lets move ahead 12 years on my timeline, the next incident occurs. After being in and out of the hospital 8 times, over a two year period, I was rushed into emergency surgery for severe thoracic stenosis; I had cauda equana. This is one of the most pressing neurological emergencies, and it can lead to permanent paralysis. Due to the severity of the stenosis, laser surgery was not an option, and I was given a new seven inch scar. This is par for the course for people who have long term multilevel fusions. The rest of the spine wears faster, and it becomes a cascading effect that damages the whole spine. Currently I only have five levels that are not damaged or diseased. The pump still works on the RSD, and lumbar pain, however, it struggles to compensate for the stenosis induced leg myotonia.

Over the years I have watched pain management go from extremely liberal opioid policies , to the current fear of prescribing anything opioid. Things really started to change about eight years ago when the issue of opioid overuse really came to light. Doctors started changing, and mine began educating his patients on the responsible use of pain medication. It became “Use less, and be wiser about that use”. This meant, no more increasing amounts but, the better use of what you have. I personally experienced these changes and learned a different way of approaching opioid use. I think doctors and patients learned together how to reduce the amount prescribed. This has been changing for some time, however, granted, not everyone has changed with the times. Certain doctors continue to follow the old opioid philosophy and have damaged their communities. The truth is the damage has been done. Those addicts who found their way into pain clinics are now being cut off. They are resorting to heroin and other drugs. This is also not to say there are not true chronic pain patients out there who were cut off, and have now turned to heroin for pain management, they are out there too. However, research shows this is an extremely low percentage of chronic pain patients. Research also shows that the percentage of pain patients who become addicts is also very low, studies suggest 2%-7%. Addiction and dependence are also two different things. Anyone who takes an opioid for an extended period of time, will become dependent. This means if that person stops taking the medication, they will go through withdrawal. Addiction is when the pain is truly suffering, and the medication is used to escape that suffering. Sometimes the two are interconnected, which really complicates the issue.  I said the damage is done, yes it is, and now the chickens come home to roost. The addicts have been discharged, and must  find their fix in the streets. This leads to an increase in the demand for drugs like heroin and black-market fentanyl. Truth be told, the diverted legal prescriptions are a small part of the opioids found on the streets. Mostly these drugs now come from Mexico and China. Do a search for “Buy Fentanyl” online, and you will find a menu of places oversees willing to send it right to your door. Yes, it is that easy to get black market opioids 50x stronger than heroin. Much easier than trying to convince your doctor you need a few Vicodin. Since the chickens have come home, there is a public outcry for action. Instead of explaining this crises will take some time to deal with,  they are gas lighting the public and telling them this issue is being caused by the pain doctors. Once again, not that they are not out there, they are just much fewer than the government is leading you to believe. What an easy scapegoat! Now all doctors who prescribe opioids are dealers, and all chronic pain patients are addicts. The crusade begins, another war, the war on opioids! Politicians are now clamoring to demonstrate they are tough on drugs, especially in NJ. These politicians are not taking a balanced or an informed approach when creating these new  drug initiatives, they are being reactive, and they are promoting hysteria. In reality, they are harassing, cherry picking, and closing down legitimate pain clinics. They are disregarding the damage that is being done to the men and women who suffer from chronic pain. They are deeming pain patient as addicts by lumping them in the same category as black market  opioids users. The FDA has refused to weigh research that was contradictory to their agenda, and did not invite the testimonies of pain management doctors, nor their patients, when forming many of these new opioid  initiatives.

Many people will say, “well I have back pain, and I just take a couple of Motrin”. Well, this is akin to saying that all back pain is the same, or better yet, all pain is the same. Is childbirth like a pulled muscle, or is a tooth ache like cancer pain? Moreover, people have various genetics which make some great at dealing with severe pain, while others not so much so, this is chemistry, not willpower. Acute pain is easier to get through, you are still strong, and you know it is not forever. Maybe we have kidney stones, break our arm, have knee issues, these are not the same as chronic pain. Imagine your acute severe pain lasting days, weeks, months or years. You cant sleep, you cant work, your energy is all wasted on compensating for the pain, your demeaner begins to change, and then it robs you of all your joy and love. You become a shell of what you were. Your world becomes small, and soon there is just the pain and you, as you lose everything. Am I exaggerating? I am not, I have been through it. I am just lucky to have found a good pain management doctor early, and have a loving wife. Many of my peers have not been so lucky.

When I decided to make my story public, I knew I may be labeled, and abandoned by some of my friends and student. How can a zen monk not control severe pain? Well, I am one of them, and the human mind and body can defy only so much pain. I am certainly skilled with going through suffering! One thing I have learned a great deal about in my zen practice, is me. For a long time I had issue with the stares and sneers the other monks and nuns gave me as I sat in a sway back chair during session. I felt so shamed, and so unsure that I was “good enough” to be a zen monk. I tried to explain to whomever would listen my story but, I learned the reality is, people just could not relate. There are very few people in Zen with severe spinal disease, and even fewer who suffer from severe chronic pain. However, I believe there should be much much more. At my zendo, I have even gone as far as stopping correcting people with physical issues during zazen. I don’t care if they lay down, sit in a chair, get up to complete the round in the other room, or take a nap to settle their bodies and minds. It takes a lot to deal with chronic pain, and then the normal peppering of sesshin pain and suffering, and it can be overwhelming easily. As long as I think they are trying, that is enough for me, as it was good enough for my teacher. Now those who have monkey mind, well, that’s a different story.

I invite you to further educate yourself on the current politics which are impacting chronic pain patients. The current attempt to rectify the actions of the past have created a hysteria around pain management. This hysteria is greatly impacting the lives of those who suffer from chronic pain, and the physicians who treat them. Let’s work towards a balanced approach, which addresses opioid addiction and abuse, while also protecting those who truly need it.

 

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Harvest Sesshin October 18-23 16

“Sesshin”, literally “to collect the mind”, is the Zen Buddhist seclusion or intensive period, consisting of five days of silent meditative practice. Included in these periods are daily Zazen, Dharma Talks/Teisho (sermons), Samu (work) periods, and private interview/meeting (Dokusan) twice daily with Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho. During Sesshin, the Zen Student concentrates on nothing but collecting the scattered energies of the mind, so they may realize their place within the universe, as the universe. Much of the times, this “place” feels hidden from us in our daily lives, and as a result, we seek outwardly for that we perceive we are lacking. Deep insight into our core nature occurs when we least expect it. 20150815_201133These seemingly random experiences stir within us something systemic to our very being. Something which consumes us without a trace. This nature, our nature, is the root of the universe itself. This nature is always present, however, we are blinded by the habitual ego projection, and we just miss it! When we do experience these subtle insights, these quick flashes of light and sparks, they stoke the flames of our core, and we burn brighter and brighter. Although sadly, for most, these flames grow cold once again; they are left unattended and un-nurtured. However, for those few men and women who tend to this burning ember, it grows stronger and stronger until a flame rises up and illuminates the darkness of ignorance. For centuries, philosophy and theology have tried to explain this process, their attempts intrinsically shallow and hollow at best. The awakened mind is beyond word and letter. The path is straightforward, and honest in approach. It reveals itself fully in each unfolding moment. This honest and straightforward readiness to let go of our preconceived ideas and attachments, is the catalyst from which the restorative process begins. Sesshin is a time to dedicate ourselves to the exploration of this great matter, and a time to heal the scars which have long limited our true freedom and happiness. We hope you will come and explore with us, this most noblest of endeavors.

Partial attendance accepted.

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Obon Celebration 2016

20150815_204436Obon is Saturday August 13 2016 and we are preparing for a wondrous evening of family and fun. Obon is an opportunity to celebrate our family and friends both living and deceased. With the rush of daily life and the pursuit of the grasping and consuming self we loose our connection and grounding with those whose who have given our lives its shape. There appears to be a forward only direction when perceiving time in the west, and what is viewed as in the past, is forgotten and given little significance other than a passing cue and ensuing memory. Time is not so linear, within the present is both the past and future working within a beautiful synergy to create what is now. They reside in one another, and although we separate them, and draw clear lines between them, this is of no significance to anything but, ourselves. The mind can resurrect worlds of ash and summon things to come at the turning of word or the sway of a willow. During Obon we suspend linear time and invite the spirits to once again walk within our world and partake of food and drink through our being. We light the bonfire and call their names to help the spirits find us. We also offer those stray spirits who have no one to call their names rice and water to honor and feed them. Our ancestors then visit with us and enjoy the food, drink and music that is offered in their honor. 20150815_201133Through us, they once again return and remind us of their presence; in our lives, guiding our hand, in every exhalation and inhalation they sit in shadow, hidden by our linear mind. At the close of Obon, it is time for the spirits to return to their place and they are sent off with silence and deep gratitude. In their rightful place, our ancestors are now content and live on as a part of us, our family and our lives.

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Full Day Zazenkai July 24 2016 6:00am-6:00pm

“Sesshin”, literally “to collect the mind”, is the Zen Buddhist seclusion or intensive period, consisting of 1-14 days of silent meditative practice. Included in these periods are daily Zazen, Dharma Talks/Teisho (sermons), Samu (work) periods, and private interview/meeting (Dokusan) twice daily with Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho. During Sesshin, the Zen Student concentrates on nothing but, rotation 2collecting the scattered energy of mind, so that they may realize their rightful place within the universe, as the universe. This “boundless mind”, many times, feels hidden from us in our daily lives, and as a result, we seek outwardly for that which we perceive we are lacking. Deep insights into our core nature occurs when we stop grasping outwardly for insight and wisdom. Many times these experiences occur when we least expect them. They reveal themselves in our daily activities, in times of heartache and despair, love and joy, death and birth, or simply “being”. These seemingly random, and powerful experiences, stir within us something systemic to our very being, something which consumes the ego self without a trace. This nature, our core nature, is the essence of universe itself. It is always present, and we unknowingly swim in it at all times, however, we are blinded by the strong currents of the habitual ego and we are tricked into limiting our perception of reality and our subjective grounding. When we awaken to the truth, and experience the lightning strike of insight, these flashes and sparks, stoke the flames of our true nature, and burn away the ignorance and darkness which imprisons us. As our Zen Practice matures, our inner light burns brighter and brighter. Without continued practice via zazen (meditation), these flames will grow cold once again, and we will slowly be swept away by the habitual currents once again. However, there will be those few men and women who will tend to this burning ember, their hearts and minds will glow brighter and brighter, and in the most subtle and ordinary way, they will realize their rightful seat among the countless Buddhas. The awakened mind of the Buddha is beyond word and letter, it is beyond even the Buddhas themselves. This one true dynamic mind is simple, loving, and selfless, yet unattainable and inexhaustible.
Our journey to realize this mind begins with the readiness to let go of our preconceived ideas and desires; sesshin is a container of tools that are designed to help us identify and breakthrough the briars which entangle us. Our efforts during sesshin fan the internal fire which temper our insights, and reveals the truth of who and what all “this” is. Sesshin is the catalyst from which this process begins, and true healing and liberation are realized. We hope you will come and explore with this great matter with us!

FMI Call – 484-268-0724

Email – Jisha@BlueMountainZendo.org

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“Charity Bike Run” Palmerton, Pa.

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Weekend Sesshin May 13-15 2016

 

“Sesshin”, literally “to collect the mind”, is the Zen Buddhist seclusion or intensive period, consisting of 3-14 days of silent meditative practice. Included in these periods are daily Zazen, Dharma Talks/Teisho (sermons), Samu (work) periods, and private interview/meeting (Dokusan) twice daily with Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho. During Sesshin, the Zen Student concentrates on nothing but, rotation 2collecting the scattered energy of mind, so that they may realize their rightful place within the universe, as the universe. This “boundless mind”, many times, feels hidden from us in our daily lives, and as a result, we seek outwardly for that which we perceive we are lacking. Deep insights into our core nature occurs when we stop grasping outwardly for insight and wisdom. Many times these experiences occur when we least expect them. They reveal themselves in our daily activities, in times of heartache and despair, love and joy, death and birth, or simply “being”. These seemingly random, and powerful experiences, stir within us something systemic to our very being, something which consumes the ego self without a trace. This nature, our core nature, is the essence of universe itself. It is always present, and we unknowingly swim in it at all times, however, we are blinded by the strong currents of the habitual ego and we are tricked into limiting our perception of reality and our subjective grounding. When we awaken to the truth, and experience the lightning strike of insight, these flashes and sparks, stoke the flames of our true nature, and burn away the ignorance and darkness which imprisons us. As our Zen Practice matures, our inner light burns brighter and brighter. Without continued practice via zazen (meditation), these flames will grow cold once again, and we will slowly be swept away by the habitual currents once again. However, there will be those few men and women who will tend to this burning ember, their hearts and minds will glow brighter and brighter, and in the most subtle and ordinary way, they will realize their rightful seat among the countless Buddhas. The awakened mind of the Buddha is beyond word and letter, it is beyond even the Buddhas themselves. This one true dynamic mind is simple, loving, and selfless, yet unattainable and inexhaustible.
Our journey to realize this mind begins with the readiness to let go of our preconceived ideas and desires; sesshin is a container of tools that are designed to help us identify and breakthrough the briars which entangle us. Our efforts during sesshin fan the internal fire which temper our insights, and reveals the truth of who and what all “this” is. Sesshin is the catalyst from which this process begins, and true healing and liberation are realized. We hope you will come and explore with this great matter with us!

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Cherry Blossom Festival April 2016

Celebrate spring with us at the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival! Rev. Joriki Osho will give a Dharma talk, the sangha will have a booth with tea and tea bowls for sale. Free family friendly event!

https://www.facebook.com/Allentown-Cherry-Blossom-Festival-1429547687263783

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Beginner’s Day Retreat March 6 2016 9-6pm

5467Interested in Zen? Looking for an authentic Zen Experience? Blue Mountain Zendo is an authentic Rinzai Zen Temple, located in the Blue Mountains of Andreas, Pennsylvania. The temple is led by Rev. Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho, a recognized monk and teacher in the Rinzai Zen Lineage. Our “Beginner’s Retreat” is a wonderful introduction to the practice of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. The day will include the following:
1.Zen Philosophy (Q&A)
2.Zen History
3.Meditation (Zazen)
4.Ritual
5.Chanting
6.Jihatsu (Formal Eating)
7.Walking Meditation (Kinhin)
8.Tea Ceremony

A vegetarian lunch will be served. Come join us! Reserve your spot today.

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Rohatsu Sesshin January 11-16 2016 w/ Genjo Marinello

Rohatsu Sesshin January 11-16 2016 w/ Genjo Marinello, Osho & Joriki Baker, Osho

“Sesshin”, literally “to collect the mind”, is the Zen Buddhist seclusion or intensive period, consisting of 6 days of silent meditative practice. Included in these periods are daily Zazen, Dharma Talks/Teisho (sermons), Samu (work) periods, and private interview/meeting (Dokusan) twice daily with Kokan Genjo Marinello, Osho. During Sesshin, the Zen Student concentrates on nothing but collecting the scattered energies of the mind, so they may realize their place within the universe, as the universe. Much of the times, this “place” feels hidden from us in our daily lives, and as a result, we seek outwardly for that we perceive we are lacking. Deep insight into our core nature occurs when we least expect it. These seemingly random experiences stir within us something systemic to our very being. Something which consumes us without a trace. This nature, our nature, is the root of the universe itself. This nature is always present, however, we are blinded by the habitual ego projection, and we just miss it! When we do experience these subtle insights, these quick flashes of light and sparks, they stoke the flames of our core, and we burn brighter and brighter. Although sadly, for most, these flames grow cold once again; they are left unattended and un-nurtured. However, for those few men and women who tend to this burning ember, it grows stronger and stronger until a flame rises up and illuminates the darkness of ignorance. For centuries, philosophy and theology have tried to explain this process, their attempts intrinsically shallow and hollow at best. The awakened mind is beyond word and letter. The path is straightforward, and honest in approach. It reveals itself fully in each unfolding moment. This honest and straightforward readiness to let go of our preconceived ideas and attachments, is the catalyst from which the restorative process begins. Sesshin is a time to dedicate ourselves to the exploration of this great matter, and a time to heal the scars which have long limited our true freedom and happiness. We hope you will come and explore with us, this most noblest of endeavors.

Kokan Genjo Marinello, Osho’s Biography:

Genjo-Marinello

Kokan Genjo Marinello Osho (born 1954) is the current Abbot of Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Ji in Seattle, WA, a Rinzai Zen temple. Genjo Osho began his Zen training in 1975, and was ordained an unsui (priest in training) in 1980. During 1981-82 he trained at RyutakuJi in Japan. Genjo Osho was formally installed as the second Abbot of Chobo-Ji on Rinzai Zenji’s (d.866) memorial day January 10th, 1999. Genjo Osho is also psychotherapist in private practice, a certificated spiritual director from a program affiliated with the Vancouver School of Theology, married to wife, Carolyn, and devoted father to daughter, Adrienne. Chobo-Ji temple is in the Rinzai – Hakuin Ekaku Zenji Dharma Line, after Genki Roshi retired, Genjo Marinello Osho trained with Eido Shimano Roshi, former abbot of DaiBosatsu Monastery in New York, who affirmed Genjo Osho as a Dharma Heir on May 21st, 2008. Genjo Osho-san is a member of the American Zen Teachers Association. Genjo’s Dharma Talks have been published in several Dharma journals beginning with the Theosphical Society’s Quest Magazine in 1991. Genjo Osho’s commentary on Koan Practice has been translated into several languages.

Genjo Osho has served the greater Seattle community as an Adjunct Faculty member at Antioch University Seattle in Buddhist Studies, a member of the Religious Coalition for Equality, a volunteer Buddhist pastor for the Washington State Department of Corrections, a Spiritual Director associated with Anamchara ­ a Progam of Multifaith Works, and has worked repeatedly with the Church Council of Greater Seattle in interfaith trauma response to tragedies. State Department of Corrections. Genjo Osho is assisted by Genko Kathy Blackman Ni-Osho, who is also a Urasenke Japanese Tea Teacher and a member of the Religious Services Advisory Committee of the Washington State Department of Corrections.

Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho Biography:

rotation 2 Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho is an American Zen Buddhist Monk and founder of Blue Mountain Zendo, Koryu-ji. Joriki, Osho has practiced Zen for over twenty five years and is currently the abbot and teacher of Koryu-ji.  Osho resides in Andreas, Pennsylvania, which is located 30 miles outside of Allentown on the Blue Mountain (Appalachian Mountains). Joriki, Osho grew up in Northern California and was raised within a devoutly Lutheran family, and confirmed at age thirteen. It was predicted at birth, by Osho’s grandmother, that he would grow up to devote his life to the priesthood. At the age of thirteen, Joriki was spent two weeks on a reservation in California, and took part in a Purification Ceremony (sweat) which would reveal itself to be the catalyst for his spiritual awakening.
Joriki has studied: Japanese Nichren Soka Gakki, Soto Zen, Vietnamese Thien (Zen) and Rinzai Zen. Joriki’s spiritual endeavors came to fruition on in 2001 when he was ordained by Thich Nguyen. Post ordination, Joriki would go on to study at Dai Bosatsu Monastery, Kongoji in Livingston Manner, New York. Currently Joriki studies with Genjo Marinello, Osho – abbot of Choboji in Seattle Washington. Joriki is a trained social worker who specializes in supporting dually diagnosed men and women. He is also an advocate for practicing men and women with disabilities, who wish to practice Zen, however, are intimidated by the physical demands of the core practice (sesshin). In 2009, Joriki, Osho was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and a neuromuscular disease. Joriki’s direct experiences have molded his gentle-hearted approach to Zen Practice, as well as his commitment to the compassionate treatment of all sentient beings, the acceptance of the person as a whole, and the belief in the potential of all beings to awaken. Currently, Osho is a member of the AZTA (American Zen Teachers Association), a police chaplain for the city of Allentown, and abbot of Blue Mountain Zendo.

For more information please Call: 484-268-0724 –

Email: Joriki@bluemountainzendo.org

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Heating Repair Fundraiser

20150117_160631gofundme.com/2n6gwu2

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