By Kelli Ritschel
I was blessed to be able to accompany my son, Nik, on a very difficult life journey as he navigated the winding and unpredictable paths of synovial sarcoma. This journey taught us both much about courage, hope, love and faith. I am still learning these lessons, while he has graduated — summa cum laude! Nik passed away March 9, 2012, in Phoenix.
Nik was diagnosed with this difficult cancer about a month before his 18th birthday, and he reached heaven about a month after his 21st birthday. During his journey, Nik met many people and visited many places for medical treatment. It might have been his charismatic way or simply the kindness of people; whatever the reason, Nik was blessed to have many people “take one step” to help him along his journey. Friends and family provided respite to keep Nik’s focus on the future. Being a runner myself, each time someone would “take one step,” it always felt like a much-needed water stop during a very hard run. It gave Nik indescribable energy and kept him optimistic about the future.
Nik realized that many cancer patients in his age group were not as fortunate as he. They were too old to take advantage of organizations like Make a Wish, and yet too young to have their own resources. He wished there was something he could do. The evening before he died, he asked me to listen to a special song. The lyrics were moving to him, and it was certainly how he lived his life… “To change the world, start with one step, however small, the first step is hardest of all.” Please join me to … “Take one step” at the first annual Nik’s Home Run 7k Race and 1-Mile Fun Walk, 9 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Rockford RiverHawks Stadium.
The Nikolas Ritschel Foundation was established to fulfill Nik’s vision to enrich the lives of sarcoma cancer patients ages 18-24. Nik’s Home Run 7k Race and 1-Mile Fun Walk will raise money to provide enrichment for these patients to keep them looking toward the future with hope, faith and courage.
The race course challenges you to a 7k (4.3 miles) race through some of the area’s premier sporting and athletic venues. Starting at the RiverHawks Stadium through the acres of the Northeast Family YMCA, around the Indoor Sports Center through the Sportscore Two soccer fields around the track with the final sprint down the third base sideline and across home plate! Walkers as well will get the fun of crossing home plate!
The event will be packed with fun surprises and chances to win cool prizes. Hope to see you there!
From the Oct. 24-30, 2012, issue