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Baby steps: With tiny Oliver growing stronger, friends lend family a hand

Amii and Guy Fritz spend time with their son Oliver, who arrived months early on Jan. 2. Community members and others are rallying around the Shepherdstown family, which includes son River, 5, and daughter Luna, 2. An online auction begins Saturday to help the Fritzes with expenses.

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Amii and Guy Fritz, the owners of German Street’s Up on the Hill, do more than sell cloth diapers and earth-friendly toys and body products. They make friends.

Now, after the couple’s third child arrived more than three months early, the Fritzes’ friends are rallying to provide a hand. Many others are helping out, too, even rival businesses.

Weighing just 1 pound, 9 ounces at birth, Oliver remains in the neonatal intensive care unit at Winchester (Va.) Medical Center, leaving his parents to juggle his needs while they also care for their older children and run their business.

On Saturday, an online auction begins to help the family with travel expenses, groceries, child care for Oliver’s siblings and other needs.

So far, customers, friends, fellow business owners, Up on the Hill vendors and even competing online retailers have donated more than 150 auction items, from paintings and sports items to baby items and gift cards.

Paige DeWitt of Martinsburg said she bonded with Amii over cloth diapers and other aspects of parenting. The Fritzes opened the business more than two years ago, after the birth of their second child. “They’re not just a store,” DeWitt said. “They’ve become part of the community.”

DeWitt, who is expecting another child this spring, said she felt compelled to help once she heard that Oliver had been born so early.

She came up with the idea for an online auction and quickly saw a flood of donations, including cloth diaper packages, a hard-to-find infant carrier and other high-value items. Restaurants have donated meal deals and many Shepherdstown businesses have given gift certificates.

“It’s been overwhelming,” DeWitt said.

Shepherdstown’s Oliver Fritz wasn’t due until mid-April, but arrived Jan. 2 weighing just 1 pound, 9 ounces. Community members and others are rallying around the Fritz family, with an online benefit auction set to begin Saturday. This picture was taken Thursday.

Shepherdstown’s Oliver Fritz wasn’t due until mid-April, but arrived Jan. 2 weighing just 1 pound, 9 ounces. Community members and others are rallying around the Fritz family, with an online benefit auction set to begin Saturday. This picture was taken Thursday.

Maria Moser, a longtime friend of Amii’s, set up a GoFundMe site that’s raised more than $5,000 to help the family with healthcare and everyday expenses.

She said the community’s financial help and emotional support mean a lot during these difficult days as Oliver’s health reports include both frightening warnings and positive developments.  “All the things that are ‘normal’ for a preemie are terrifying,” she said. “It’s really helpful for Amii because it’s so positive, and she needs that so much.”

For two years, Fritz and Moser have partnered to host The Great Cloth Diaper Change, an event to raise awareness of the benefits of reusable diapers.

At the store and online, the Fritzes sell organic clothing, a variety of cloth diapers, handcrafted toys, baby carriers, accessories such as jewelry, and even chocolate. The Fritzes also offer up their expertise and provide a sense of camaraderie for area moms.

“They’re about people, not the bottom line,” Moser said.

Moser said Amii is known for spending as much time as needed to help a customer find just the right baby carrier or shower gift. She offers classes on cloth diaper use and collects Toys for Tots donations. “She’d give you the shirt off her back,” she said. “Nobody knows them and doesn’t like them.”

Amii said her family is grateful for all the care. “The support has been positively overwhelming,” she wrote in a recent email. “Not only from our local community and my customers, but also my business associates from all over the U.S. and Canada. Even strangers have sent me cards of encouragement.”

Want to help?

  • Up on the Hill is located at 121 W. German St. in Shepherdstown. The store is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
  • An auction to benefit the family begins Saturday. Find out more and get the latest on Baby Oliver at uponthehilldiapers.com
  • Blue Moon Cafe in Shepherdstown hosts a benefit concert for the Fritz family starting at 9 p.m. Feb. 6. Suggested donation is $10 to hear bands THICK, the Bloody 9s and CassiRaye, plus raffles and more.

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