Nik’s Home Run 7K Race & 1.5 Mile Fun Walk Oct. 11

Staff Report w/Kelli Ritschel

LOVES PARK, Illinois — Aviators Stadium will host the Third Annual Nik’s Home Run 7K Race & 1.5 Mile Fun Walk at 9 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 11, to help benefit the Nikolas Ritschel Foundation.

The Nikolas Ritschel Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides enrichment opportunities for young adult sarcoma patients between the ages of 18 and 24. The foundation is inspired by Nikolas Ritschel’s journey with synovial sarcoma and raises money to create opportunities to enrich the lives, stimulate encouragement, and strengthen the faith of sarcoma patients and their loved ones.

Registration after Oct. 8 is $35, but cancer survivors will be able to register for $25. Those wishing to participate in the 1.5 Mile Fun Walk will be able to register for just $15. At the Dreaming Tree, you can dedicate your race to someone special by hanging their picture on the tree, or wear a race bib to “Race in Celebration” or “Race in Memory” of a loved one. Dedication bibs will be available the day of the race.

If you’d like to come for support without participating in the race, you can still help. Check out Gammy’s Silent Auction at the stadium. Last year, there were more than 100 silent auction items ranging from sports memorabilia to dining and entertainment.

Nik’s mother, Kelli, has a special message to share with the community:

It has been 2.5 years since my son, Nik, asked me not to be afraid to take one step to help young cancer patients. Nik knew exactly how important hope is to a patient fighting cancer, and he was troubled when he discovered that many programs like Make A Wish have an age limit of 18 years old. How do you nurture and keep hope alive? Nik believed that programs like Make A Wish do just that. The Nikolas Ritschel Foundation was born because of Nik’s wish to start a program to nurture hope with happiness. One hundred percent of Nik’s Home Run and Silent Auction proceeds go directly to help cancer patients 18-24.

The Foundation has helped 16 patients and their loved ones and by providing a break from the cancer fight and enjoy happy moments. Nate, Amanda, Bill, Stephanie, Arthur, Max, Jake, Dominique, Daniel, Shawn, Joshua, Beatriz, Kim, Alec, Nicole and Drake have all experienced how happiness instills hope and encourages the fight to live.

Each patient’s story pulls on my heart strings. Just recently I received a call from Nik’s oncologist asking if the Foundation could arrange a respite quickly. His patient, Alec (21 years old) doesn’t have much time left on this earth. Alec wanted to visit Las Vegas and eat at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant. The Foundation was able to arrange for Alec, his 9-year-old sister, Mom and Dad to travel together for one last family vacation. It is hard to believe that this will be the last trip together. We would never have been able to assist this family without the tremendous support of our great sponsors and this community. Rockford Aviators, Kerry Inc., SwedishAmerican Regional Cancer Center, Rockford Health System and many more businesses and individuals who believe in the mission and have helped.

Regretfully, many patients we help will not survive. Last year, we were able to help a local patient, Jacob. Jake’s family volunteered at our first Nik’s Home Run in 2012. Tragically, Jake was diagnosed with Spindle Cell Sarcoma early in 2013. The Foundation provided Jake and his loved ones a family trip to Florida in the fall of 2013. Jacob left this world in June of 2014. We were honored to be a small part of his journey. Jake wrote, “I am grateful for the vacation that the Nikolas Ritschel Foundation helped my family and I receive. It was tremendously fun and offered my family and I chances to go to new places and enjoy new experiences. Most importantly, though, it offered a break from the chaotic life style we had to deal with going to and from the hospital all the time. I’m glad we had such an opportunity to spend time as a family and to go out and enjoy ourselves. This foundation really does a lot of good for a lot of people. Keep it up! Thank you.”

Thank you, Rockford, for taking one step to help!

From the Oct. 8-14, 2014, issue

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