Mom who lost son to cancer makes wishes come true through Nik’s Wish Foundation

Stateline Strong

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — March will be International Women’s Month and to celebrate, we’re highlighting four women who viewers nominated for their contributions to the Stateline.

Kelli Ritschell-Boehle is all about making wishes come true through the Nik’s Wish Foundation, which she formed after the tragedy of losing her son. She turned his death from cancer into a mission to help others.

When Nik was 17, he was granted a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Ritschell-Boehle said it was a beacon of light during his battle with cancer.

“Part of the wish, for him, wasn’t just having a wish: it was thinking about the wish and dreaming about the wish and anticipating the wish,” she remembered. “To him, it felt like the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket. He had something, in the midst of terrible things happening with him, that nobody else had.”

Nik died in 2012.

The day before his passing, Nik told his mom that he wanted young people, too old for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to feel the hope that having a wish gave him.

Since then, his mom has been granting wishes for people between 18-24 years old who are suffering from cancer.

“[It gives them] time to just be together to love and to laugh and to make some very precious memories,” Ritschell-Boehle said. “Sadly, a lot of the young adults that we help, they don’t beat cancer, so just like my wish memories are precious to me, their memories are priceless to them, because there’s a finite number of them [left].”

The Nik’s Wish Foundation has granted almost 180 wishes across 3 dozen states. Ritschell-Boehel said those looking forward to their wishes can even make strides in their treatments.

One recent recipient was Murray, who wasn’t able to walk, due to a tumor on his leg.

“He wanted to go to the NBA All-Star Game in L.A. and he wanted to walk down Hollywood Boulevard,” she said. “He wanted to get there, and so, in his mind, what he wanted to do is get there and be able to do that.”

When it came the time for Murray to live out his wish, “He sent us a video. It was a beautiful video, as he’s walking down Hollywood Boulevard. ‘Here I am, I’m walking!'” she said.

Ritschell-Boehel says she can’t take all the credit for the Nik’s Wishes:

“There’s a group of about 15 passionate people who really believe in this mission, and they give their heart and soul,” she said. “I’m not remarkable. I’m surrounded by remarkable people. So maybe I’m just the personification of all that remarkableness behind me.”

She’s now a finalist for the nationwide Nexstar Broadcasting 2020 Remarkable Woman award. She says Nik would be proud of her nomination.

“He was one of my biggest fans. He was my biggest fan and I was his biggest fan. And I know he would be extremely happy for me, and he would be proud of me,” she said. “I can just feel how. Nik was really big on hugs, so I could just feel him giving me a big hug and saying, ‘That’s so cool, mom.'”

Nik’s Wish is almost entirely run by relying on fundraising efforts. The organization will host a St. Patrick’s-themed beer run in March. For more information, click here.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns WQRF-TV and provides management services to WTVO-TV.

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