LEWISTOWN - At this time last year, Dylan Follmer could be found school shopping with his mother, playing drums with friends, preparing for the Philadelphia Flyers season and watching movies with his girlfriend.
This year, however, Follmer will not be walking the halls of Mifflin County High School or skating on the ice rink with his hockey team. On Feb. 23, after two weeks of unforeseen complications from a routine heart surgery, Follmer passed away, leaving family and friends devastated.
"He would have been a senior this year," said Lori Follmer, Dylan's mother. "He was a wonderful person and, as I keep learning, impacted so many lives with his kindness and positivity. I received many cards from other mothers about how my son helped their child or made school easier."
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Presenting a bench in loving memory of Dylan Follmer are, from left, front, Ian McGinnis, Brooke Riden and Kytora Weaver; middle, Katey Cramer; back, Tucker Bachman, Taylor Peachey, Eric Brought, Jon Colwell, Ben Knable and Thomas Andrie. The bench, placed in front of Mifflin County High School, is where Follmer attended school and would have been a senior this year.
Dylan was born in 1995 with arterial transposition, a congenital heart defect that occurs when the position of the two major arteries in the heart are switched, resulting in a lack of oxygen and circulation to the body. At two days old he underwent surgery in which the arteries were aligned properly and a synthetic patch was placed over the heart.
The surgery that took place in February was meant to clear some of the scar tissue out of his heart, to ensure proper blood flow and heart rhythm. However, what was meant to be a routine surgery turned into an hour-and-a-half of CPR, stalled circulation resulting in a leg amputation and internal bleeding, leading to Dylan's passing.
"Dylan lived his life as a friend to everyone," Lori said. "When he passed, his friends rallied around me and my sons, offering constant support."
Shortly after Dylan's passing, his friends designed a fundraising program for a memorial in honor of Dylan and all that he meant to the community.
"Dylan was more than my boyfriend, he was my best friend," said Brooke Riden, Dylan's girlfriend. "After the funeral Katey Cramer came to me and suggested we sell shirts to fund a memorial somewhere in the community. I thought we should go for it."
With the help of T&J Sports and Screen Printing, located in McClure, the shirts became available for purchase in March. The front reads "Count Your Blessings," a saying that Dylan was known for and eventually hoped to get in tattoo form, and features a design of Dylan's favorite things. The back includes lyrics from Dylan's favorite band and reads "In Memory of Dylan Follmer, 4.28.1995 2.23.2012."
"A lot of the guys at school were getting tattoos to memorialize Dylan," Katey said. "I thought a shirt would be a good way for me to remember him and for other people to get involved. Though we didn't know how yet, we wanted to use the money to keep the memory of him alive."
By mid-August, the group of friends had earned more than $700, enough to install a memorial bench, with an engraved picture of Dylan, on Mifflin County High School grounds. The bench was installed the week of Aug. 16 without a ceremony. Friends of Dylan are hoping to hold a ceremony when the school year starts, Katey said.
Dylan's mother is also planning to host a benefit dinner in his memory during the school year. All proceeds will be used to fund a memorial scholarship for a member of the senior class.
"You only hear about the bad stuff kids do these days," Lori said. "I'd like to use the scholarship to honor the good things the students in our community are achieving. I am incredibly grateful for their support."