JMC Student and Professor Work Together to Help Local Family

JMC Student and Professor Collaborate to Help Local Family.

Senior public relations major Abby Prulhiere and David LaBelle, director of the photojournalism program in JMC, collaborated on a project to raise money for a Tallmadge family.

Prulhiere developed a fundraising campaign for the Ripleys, a family that has undergone extreme financial stress as a result of their various disabilities and mounting medical bills.

The Ripley brothers, Dan, 29, and Dustin, 27, both suffer from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a disease that causes muscular degeneration. Their mother Debbie, who has Multiple Sclerosis, is retired on disability and their father Dale severely injured his leg at work, inhibiting his ability to work full-time in construction.

Due to the stress of medical bills and their inability to work, Dale and Debbie have struggled to refinance their home.

Prulhiere, who has a personal relationship with the Ripleys through her father’s friendship with Dale Ripley, created a Go Fund Me campaign in an effort to help raise money for the family. The goal of the campaign is to raise $82,000, which is the amount the family needs to refinance their home.

“I hope I can raise the full amount because I cannot think of a more deserving family,” Prulhiere said. “The Ripleys aren't just struggling financially; they have struggled emotionally and physically every day for about 30 years.” 

For the Ripleys, losing their home is a great threat. Prulhiere said Dale and Debbie spend the money they have on their sons' medical bills, equipment and supplies before other expenses.

Prulhiere said majoring in public relations has helped her in the development of the campaign.

“As a PR major, I have applied everything I've learned at Kent State to this fundraiser, and as a result, it has raised more than $12,200 in 14 days,” Prulhiere said. “Applying my education to something I'm passionate about -- helping others in need -- has been the most rewarding thing I've done so far in my life.”

In order to tell the Ripley’s story, Prulhiere solicited the help of Professor David LaBelle. Prulhiere has worked as LaBelle’s student intern for the past two years and knew of his devotion to compassionate storytelling.

After hearing about the Ripley’s situation, LaBelle agreed to interview and photograph the family.

“Abby has known the Ripley family since she was a child and wanted to do something to help them cope with their financial challenges,” LaBelle said.  “She knows where my heart dwells, and felt I would easily connect with the family and be able to take some pictures that would help personalize her campaign.”

LaBelle shared the Ripley’s story on his blog, Bridges and Angels with a direct link to Prulhiere’s campaign. The blog post, “Brothers” features several photographs of Dan and Dustin Ripley and the effects of their disease.

LaBelle said that photographs help to illustrate the emotion of stories.

"Words have the power to connect and engage us to stories and people intellectually, but photographs have a unique ability to grab us and engage our emotions immediately,” LaBelle said. “Together, a powerful communication marriage is created that appeals to both our head and our heart."

The campaign for the Ripleys has already raised nearly $12,600. In order to donate, please visit

Photo by David LaBelle

POSTED: Friday, January 30, 2015 03:31 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2022 09:59 AM
Taylor Nickel