For the sixth year in a row, a Rockford mom who lost her son to cancer hopes to raise enough money to fund his final wish.
“He played a Dave Matthews song for me. The words to it were. ‘To change the world, start with one step. However small, the first step is hardest of all,'” said Kelli Ritschel Boehle as she recalled the day her son, Nik, called her over to his hospital bed.
“Little did I know, that that next morning he would go in for a 20 minute procedure,” said Ritschel Boehle, “and that would be the last time I would see him.”
On March 9th, 2012, Nik Ritschel lost his three year battle with Synovial Sarcoma. It started with back pain that lead to many tests. Just a month before turning 18, Kelli heard a diagnosis no mom ever wants to hear. A tumor was wrapped around Mik’s spine, and it was cancerous.
So began treatment after treatment in hospitals across the country. Nik went through seven rounds of chemo and 42 rounds of proton radiation. Through it all, his mom says he held onto one thing: Make-A-Wish.
“In Nik’s eyes it was like having the Willy Wonka golden ticket,” laughed Kelli. That golden ticket took Nik and his family to Kauai where he got to zip line and do some deep sea fishing.
“Those memories of just us being together and for a little bit of time forgetting about everything else, just being together, together as a family and sharing love and happiness, smiles, and laughs, it’s priceless.”
But make-a-wish adventures like this one stop at 18 years old.
And when Nik met a fellow patient named Nate during treatment in Maryland, that fact weighed on him. Nate was diagnosed with cancer just one month after his 18th birthday.
“I can still hear Nik, he busted through the door of the Children’s Inn [saying]. ‘Mom! Mom! We gotta do something! Nate missed out on Make-A-Wish!'”
So months after Nik’s death, Kelli set out to fulfill her son’s final wish by making it possible for young adults to make one. She started Nik’s Home Run in October of 2012. It’s A 7k run-walk at the Rivet’s stadium. The very first wish went to Nik’s friend Nate. Five years later, Nik’s Home Run has made it possible to grant more than 70 other wishes.
“The neatest thing about is just to hear the family’s comments afterward to hear what that meant to them,” said Kelli.
Because it’s those memories that meant so much to Kelli as she tries to change the world the way her son would’ve wanted her to one wish at a time.
Nik’s Home Run is tomorrow at the Rockford Rivet’s stadium. The 7K is in honor of the seven rounds of chemo Nik went through. The race kicks off at 9 AM, but you can place bids for the silent auction starting at 8.