Press "Enter" to skip to content
Brian Bartels, founder of Village Miracles, holds a cancer survival care gift bag. / Laura Austin Photo

Village Miracles, one man’s way of helping our community

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–    Next Thursday, October 26, Ridgecrest Cinemas will be the destination for some pre-Halloween fun. Starting at 6 pm, folks will begin arriving for a special showing of the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This comedy horror movie has been a cult classic forever and folks will not only have a good time, they will be supporting a good cause. The $20 admission will go to support Village Miracles, one man’s way of helping our community. Come in your Halloween costume, in a Rocky Horror Picture Show costume, or just in your everyday clothes and see what the fuss is about.

Village Miracles was founded by Brian Bartels and it is a one-man show. Born and raised in Ridgecrest, this Burroughs graduate was moved to begin giving gifts to folks undergoing hard times. In the fall of 2018, he learned that a friend of his had cancer. A week later, another friend had cancer and then a couple of weeks later, a friend’s child was diagnosed with leukemia.

Bartels went to visit his friend at the then Ridgecrest Cancer Center. They were excited because they had been gifted a cancer bag. Bartels tells us, “My friend just got so excited because here are all these things to help them through their treatments and they can carry them in a bag.” The Cancer Center had put out a list of things they needed for their patients. “Hats to keep their head warm or blankets because they get cold during treatment or sometimes their mouth gets real dry so they want sugarless candy or crossword puzzle books.”

This set Bartels thinking about what he could do, “I came up with the idea of Village Miracles, something that our community can do to help people within the community.” Then he set about raising funds. His good friend, Craig Zurn from Effen Tacos, worked with him to put on an event called “Cancer Effen Sucks.” Many local businesses donated prizes for raffles or items for cancer bags. Bartels says, “Friends could come and donate some of the items off of our Cancer Bag List and we ended up raising $7,000 that went towards these cancer bags. We put a bunch together and around Christmas time, I dressed up as Santa Claus and dropped off a whole bunch at the Cancer Center here in town.”

Then COVID hit and it was difficult to bring folks together for events. Village Miracles isn’t just about cancer and he wanted to help folks who had to work through the shut-down. He came up with “Ridgecrest Strong” and created a T-shirt with that on the front and all of the donor businesses on the back. He sold the T-shirts. “With that money, I went to local businesses and bought gift certificates. Most of those businesses doubled it or gave extra and then I took envelopes around to the ladies working at the pharmacies and gave them gift certificates from local businesses.”

Bartels is all about giving local. His guidelines for being a recipient include being a local resident for at least five years. He only approaches locally owned businesses to be involved. “Those locally run businesses that are giving back to the community. When we go get gift certificates from them, they almost always match or double or do something above and beyond because they know all these gifts are given from the heart to real, local people who need help. That’s one of the things that makes Ridgecrest an absolutely amazing, great hometown.”

Post-COVID fundraisers include an Effen Taco Sunday breakfast and, earlier this year, a showing of School Of Rock at Ridgecrest Cinemas.

School of Rock was very appropriate for Bartels, as he taught Science at Burroughs for six years and was involved with the Rock and Roll Club. He tells us, “A lot of the kids in the (rock) bands around town now were my former students.” He is also in a band, but they don’t have a name yet. The band is fronted by guitarist/vocalist Will Anderson, with Jan West on drums, Paul Gorman on guitar, and Bartels playing bass.

For 20 years Bartels has been a professional photographer. His business name for that is Visital, a combination of visual and digital. He shoots everything from concerts off-road races, babies, and weddings. He has families that he has photographed and has their visual history from engagement photos, wedding photos, maternity photos, baby photos, and first-grade photos through graduation. “Their photo galleries are 100 pages long.” You can find Visital on social media.

Check out The Rocky Horror Picture Show on October 26. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the movie starts at 6:30 or 6:45 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door or by emailing VFW Ship 4084 is also showing the movie for their Halloween party on October 27 at 7 pm and midnight.