Fundraiser for burn victim planned

Published 11:15 pm Saturday, September 10, 2011

Five months ago, Lon Bickham and three other men were doing maintenance on logging equipment in Emporia when an explosion occurred.

About 94 percent of Bickham’s body received third-degree burns. Much of it burned tissue beyond the layers of skin, sometimes referred to as fourth-degree burns. Skin remained only on his feet and parts of his head.

Ever since, Bickham has lain in a hospital bed in VCU Medical Center. He’s mostly unable to communicate and is in and out of alertness. Most of his fingers have been partially or fully amputated. He has had 28 surgeries to graft skin from his head, cadaver skin, artificial skin and lab-grown skin formed from his own cells.

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About 80 to 90 percent of his body is now covered, but the road to recovery is just beginning.

Bickham, who grew up in the Chuckatuck area and graduated from Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and Virginia Tech, has willed himself to live, sister Joanna Bickham said.

“He’s had a lot of miracles to get him this far,” she said. “But he’s going to face a lot of challenges.”

To help with his medical expenses and show support, the Girls N Pearls group has organized a fundraiser, set for Saturday.

Ann Crusenberry, who went to school with Bickham, is a member of that group.

“We’re not super-close friends, but he was a classmate and I always thought a lot of him,” Crusenberry said.

The Girls N Pearls group just started last year, and also has done community service, such as a food drive and helping the Genieve Shelter.

However, “This is the biggest thing we’ve done so far,” Crusenberry said.

From noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Bethlehem Ruritan Club at 140 Manning Road, the group will sell barbecue plates form Ricky and Roy’s and have raffles, cornhole, a bake sale and entertainment by Wild Card.

Tickets for the event are $8 and must be purchased in advance. They can be obtained at Starr Motors or Nansemond Tractor, both on Pruden Boulevard; at Blair Brothers in Driver; or by calling 650-3977 or emailing

The barbecue plates also include cole slaw, baked beans and a roll, and are eat in or take out.

Raffle tickets will go for $5 for 10, or $10 for 25. Prizes include rounds of golf, restaurant gift certificates, gift totes, handmade jewelry and weekend getaways.