By Dan Brewer, News On 6
CRAIG COUNTY, Oklahoma -- Seven-year old Andrew Thomas died last March because of bacterial meningitis. His family is now traveling this side of the state urging parents and children to know the warning signs and get the vaccine.
Alongside the twirlers, face paint and mini-tractor rides at the Welch Harvest Days is a booth with a serious mission.
Lori Lair and family were at the festival Saturday sharing the story of her nephew, Andrew Thomas. He was 7-years-old when bacterial meningitis took his life last March.
"This helps me cope; makes me feel good inside knowing that I'm helping at least getting awareness out there to help somebody else," said Andrew's aunt Lori Lair.
Andrew and classmate Shuache Moua died after the outbreak at Oologah's Lower Elementary School. Five other children were hospitalized, including Jeremiah Mitchell. The disease caused Mitchell's arms and legs to be amputated.
Appearance's like Saturday's event give Andrew's family the chance to show parents what meningitis can do and how devastating it can be to loved ones.
"It's been sad, depressing, kind of dark, it's hard to sleep," said Brekke Thomas, Andrew's Sister.
Brekke Thomas is Andrew's older sister. She's was at the event to honor her little brother, she even wrote a poem in his memory. "Writing the poem," she says. "Has helped lift the gloom."
Lair says one of her goals is to let parents know there are ways to prevent meningitis and could be as simple as a vaccine. "You may not know that age 11 you're supposed to take your child to get a booster shot," she said.
She also says it's important for parents and children to know the warning signs. "Start out like flu like symptoms and they complain of a stiff neck which is going down, then you want to get them to the emergency room."
As Welch celebrates the change of season, Lair and family are reaching out, hoping parents, grandparents, and even the kids themselves learn a little something about a disease that can change lives forever.
The family has other plans to make more appearances across northeastern Oklahoma to talk about the dangers of meningitis.