Howard mother fights childhood cancers a fund-raiser at a time


October 07, 2002|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NICK WICHMAN celebrated his seventh birthday at Rounding Third, a family entertainment center in Elkridge. A year later, the Ellicott City boy's brain tumor was diagnosed. He died in April 2001, 18 days after his eighth birthday, said his mother, Karen Wichman.

On Oct. 14, Rounding Third will hold its second annual Nick Eric Wichman Foundation Family Fun Night to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer research.

Admission to the entertainment center is free, so money raised from the go-cart, miniature golf course, arcade games and other attractions between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. will go to cancer research.

After Nick died, Karen Wichman sent a letter to the Harris family, which owns Rounding Third, explaining that her son had enjoyed the center and asking if they had fund-raising ideas.

"They just took the lead," she said, by offering to stage an annual event. "I'm not a professional fund-raiser," she said. "Just a mom with a broken heart. But I knew I had to do something."

Last year, the family fun night raised about $1,000 for the Nick Eric Wichman Foundation, she said. The nonprofit group raised about $60,000 in all last year, Wichman said, and used about $40,000 to fund a research project by Dr. Ian Pollack, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, Wichman said.

Research on childhood cancer is out of date and poorly funded, she added. While the overall federal budget for cancer research is about $5 billion, less than 1/2 of 1 percent is devoted to childhood cancers, Wichman said.

"Breast, colon, lung and pancreas are the big four and children don't get those diseases. That research does not benefit children."

Brain cancer, which afflicted Nick, is the "No. 1 cancer killer of children, and nobody knows it," Wichman said. "I'm not going to shut up about this until I see the playing field leveled a little bit here."

The disease is 100 percent fatal, she said, usually nine months to two years after it is discovered. "We were blessed because it was only a 47-day ordeal for us," she said.

"He had a stomachache ... and 46 days later, he was gone," she said. "And we're just regular people. It can happen to you or anybody else.

"We had the best medicine and they couldn't do anything for us. What's out there is not good enough for our kids," she added.

Rounding Third is at 6600 Amberton Drive in Elkridge. Information: 410-796-0800.

Fall arts

The Fall Arts Festival held Sept. 28 in downtown Ellicott City attracted an impressive crowd to town, said Caitlin Ryland, who coordinated the event. "There was a steady flow of people around town from 10 a.m. until well in the evening, patronizing all the local restaurants," she said.

The festival, which might become an annual event, was designed to showcase local art and attract people to Ellicott City.

"We were looking to have an event in Ellicott City to bring people to Ellicott City that would not normally be coming to town," Ryland said.

The daylong event included art shows in local shops, musicians, dancers and other performers. Performances took place at the B&O and La Palapa plazas and included turns by Centennial Lane Elementary School Band and a Dixieland band called Main Street Southern Jazz Combo.

Artist Kelly Gary won $200 donated by the Margaret Smith Gallery and Starry Night Antiques for the Best in Show on the professional level.

Winners of $100 savings bonds include Mathieu Lewis, Danielle Lenhard, Ryan Smith, Cara Yang and A.J. Pilgrim.

Halloween fun

Children ages 7 and older are invited to "Haunted Halloween" nights at Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge, and children ages 2 to 7 are invited to less scary festivities during the days.

Both are sponsored by Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks and Elkridge Adult Athletic Association.

The Halloween nights, which feature an old house, a "scary hayride" and other attractions, take place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 18 and 25 and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 19 and 26. The cost is $10. The less-scary hayride will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 20 and 27, and costs $3.

Information: 410-313-4625. Weather cancellations: 410-313- 4452.

Trick or treat

Main Street in Ellicott City will be open to trick-or-treaters this Halloween. Last year, the event was canceled because of fear of terrorism, but several hundred children usually participate, strolling through downtown collecting candy from stores that have a pumpkin poster on display.

The event will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 31. It is sponsored by Ellicott City Business Association.

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