Ray Biltz has spent 27 years of his life giving to Bay Village by driving kids to and from school. Now the community is giving back by helping pay for medical needs he could no longer afford.

“Ray has so much going on, especially now, so I wanted to lessen his burden,” said friend and campaign organizer Dillon Christian Slaman. “We couldn’t let him become another victim of the pandemic.”

The GoFundMe campaign began because Biltz can no longer pay for the medical care he requires. This is because he was on a healthcare plan through Caresource, a medicaid expansion plan, but was dropped because he turned 65 in January and the provider would not cover him as Medicare was supposed to kick in. However, Biltz couldn’t get Medicare because he did not pay into it as he was hired by the school district in 1983, before it was a requirement to do so.

Biltz retired from bus driving in 2010 and as a state employee, he’s currently trying to get medicare through the State Employee Retirement Services Pension Fund. There he will be covered by both Medicare A, which covers hospital expenses and Medicare D which covers medical expenses like medicine, said friend Sandy Ryan.

Living on a fixed income, he can’t afford the medication for his blood pressure, anxiety and Parkinson’s Disease, a central nervous system disorder that affects movement. On average, for a patient with insurance, treatments for Parkinson’s Disease could cost between $2,500 and $44,862.

The campaign began July 6 with a goal to raise $10,000 to help cover medical costs, but it has since raised $12,707 through 210 donors at the time of reporting. The money will go to helping Biltz pay for Medicare B, which covers doctor visits and medication and will also go to helping him live independently by installing handrails, ramps and other necessities to his house.

Slaman met Biltz three years ago while managing a landscaping business to help put himself through college. Biltz, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2016, needed someone to help him tend his garden in his back yard. The two formed a strong bond through their love of gardening.

“He’s the kind of person that when you start talking with him, you just feel like you’ve known him his whole life,” Slaman said. The two now meet regularly so that Slaman can help Biltz do chores around the house and talk.

Biltz has become a local icon in Bay Village over the years driving kids to Normandy, Westerly Elementary and St. Raphael. Since the GoFundMe campaign was posted to Facebook on July 6, there have been more than 300 comments and reactions from community members all reminiscing about how Ray has affected them.

“You ain’t from Bay if you don’t know Ray,” has become a common saying among many of those who know him.

Helping those in need isn’t out of the ordinary for Slaman and his family. When he isn’t helping people like Biltz, he’s rescuing animals and caring for them with his brother Logan until they recover, something their mother, Mary Slaman, taught them.

“I always use the saying ‘You don’t leave someone behind, and you don’t walk past someone in need,’” she said.

It took a day and a half to raise the money needed to cover Biltz’s medical costs. While he can pay for the support he needs, he says it’s the community’s support that has blown him away.

“I never would have dreamed I would get so much support from the people of Bay Village,” Biltz said. “I feel so loved and supported right now.”

Contact this reporter at akamczyc@westlifenews.com or 216-307-6614.

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