Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 13 November 2013 00:00
David Eisermann isn’t one to ask for help. He doesn’t see himself as a charity case and neither do New Hyde Park Memorial High School students Kevin Klimas, Joe Finamore and Brett Baker. But that didn’t stop them from trying to help.
The trio started “Athletes For Eisermann,” to raise money for stem cell therapy for their volleyball coach, which costs roughly $20,000. Students and Eisermann himself shaved their heads, courtesy of the Cuttin Club of Williston Park on
Thursday, Nov. 7. The amount raised was unavailable as of press time.
“I’m little embarrassed,” Eisermann said. “But it wasn’t in my hands. The students took the lead and put this together. I’m very humbled.”
Eisermann, a special education teacher at the high school, was in Northern Guatemala when he contracted a virus from an ice cube in a drink that attacked his heart. The virus caused diminished heart function and Eisermann was ready to retire after he was put on a heart transplant list before he recovered.
After his twin girls were born in 2012, Eisermann’s heart crashed. He was put back on the transplant list after being diagnosed with an ejection fraction (a measurement of the blood leaving your heart each time it contracts) of 30 percent. Fifty-five percent is the norm, according to Eisermann. Any lower, and “it’s danger territory.”
“The kids really wanted to help,” Eisermann said. “The Bakers, the Finamores...the Klimas.’ It was Kevin’s idea.”
Eisermann coached Klimas on the Gladiators football team in seventh-grade. Klimas, 16, felt Eisermann’s presence when he was a new student aided his transition throughout high school and wanted to return the favor. The junior has worked with other charities, including the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and serves as a Boy Scout for Troop 298.
“From when my mom told me about it I thought, ‘I’ve known him since junior high football and I just felt I needed to do something,’” Klimas said.
Baker, like Klimas, couldn’t sit still when he heard what Eisermann was facing. He was Baker’s coach also for a number of years and when Klimas came up with the Shave-a-Thon, Baker, 15, jumped at the chance to contribute.
“There was no way I was not helping out,” Baker said. “Coach is just a great guy. When I first heard, I was taken by shock but I had to find some sort of way to see us come together as a community and help out.”
Finamore, 16, said Eisermann told stories about his heart problems but when he found out it had gotten worse, the junior didn’t know what he’d do without his favorite coach.
“He had coached us in seventh-and eighth-grade, playing volleyball,” Finamore said. “He was always dedicated and always pushed us to do better. He convinced me to continue volleyball.”
New Hyde Park Memorial High School Principal Dr. Rich Faccio commended the trio for their hard work, taking note of the pride they have in Eisermann as a mentor.
“It’s great to see the kids supporting their teacher,” he said. “They are rallying behind him and it’s very touching.”
Eisermann was steadfast in trying to stay the course and fund his trip on his own, but his students and the parents weren’t having any of that. Locals started a fundraiser on gofundme.com, and have raised $3,475 as of press time, according to the website. Eisermann will travel to Panama on April 12 for his stem cell therapy, whether he makes the $20,000 mark or not.
“I didn’t want all of this craziness but I’m blessed,” Eisermann said.
The 12-year high school teacher feels he can do what’s necessary to function as a human being, but one thing sticks out in his mind that he knows he wants to do...play with his kids.
"When the story went out, everyone wanted to help,” he said. “Right now, I feel great. Am I able to come to work every day? Yes. Can I function? Yes. But can I chase my kids around the yard? That’s what is on my mind. I want to keep doing what I love doing.”