14-year-old manages charity for patient
TYRONE – She was on a Harley, the lead motorcycle, with about 40 riders following her, including grizzled veterans in leather vests and bandannas.
On the back of her blue T-shirt, a stenciled “CHAIRMAN.”
But Katelyn Richards was the organizer, the drive wheel behind Saturday’s 100-mile “Ride for Abigail,” a fundraiser for 7-year-old cancer patient Abigail Boyer of Warriors Mark, fellow member of Grace Baptist Church.
Katelyn got the fundraiser idea from her youth pastor, who suggested she and a couple friends organize a card shower, said Katelyn’s dad, Chris, and her mother, Jill.
“She said, ‘I have a very big burden,” Jill said. “I want to do more.”
More morphed into a motorcycle ride easily enough, as Chris, who has a Harley, had recently participated in a ride for homeless veterans.
Katelyn went to work calling venues where the riders will stop, confirming dates, signing up sponsors, setting up ads and generally spreading the word, Jill said.
“She has always gone above and beyond,” Jill said. “You ask her to roll you pennies, and she’ll roll you quarters.”
Katelyn has long had a bent toward charity, her mom said.
She rings the Salvation Army bell at Christmas. She volunteers at the Joshua House in Tyrone. She carries groceries for the elderly at the Tyrone food bank and helps at church.
“She tells me God talks to her,” Jill said. “I believe her.”
People might think it’s strange that bikers would be doing something like this, according to Katelyn, who was helping with registration in the church lobby Saturday morning.
But bikers are usually nice, even when they “look mean,” she said.
Little Logan Garrison, son of a family friend, sitting next to her, explained that his own father is a good example.
“He looks like an angry bear – like a chipmunk stole his fish,” Logan said. “But he’s super-nice.”
Outside, Ron Conrad of Bald Eagle, president of the Tyrone chapter of the American Legion Riders, was asked why he was riding.
“Why wouldn’t you?” he shot back. “It’s a heck of a cause.”
“I like the wind blowing through my hair,” said Conrad’s vice president, the aptly named John Dry, responding to the same question.
Dry’s head is shiny bald – naturally on top and with a razor’s help on the sides.
There’s an element of selfishness to it, confessed Conrad, who said he would have ridden Saturday anyway.
But they like to help and do frequent charity rides in the nice weather, he said.
Those who drove paid $15 Saturday.
Those who rode behind paid $5.
All proceeds are going directly to the Boyer family, Chris said.
The family has had many expenses connected with Abigail’s treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her mother Amy lost a month of work, Jill said.
Amy found out about the ride while she was at Johns Hopkins, she said.
“For a 14-year-old girl to give up her summer to plan a benefit for a girl she didn’t know …” Amy said. “There are not words to explain.”
Abigail has neoplastic melanoma, according to her mother. Doctors removed a tumor under the skin of her arm, but she’s at a high risk of recurrence, so she’ll have just begun 48 weeks of chemotherapy.
Amy’s husband, John, died of pancreatic cancer in 2009, and doctors think there may be a hereditary relationship with Abigail’s, Amy said.
The hospital has been giving Abigail “courage” beads to commemorate each blood draw, shot, operation and procedure.
The beads go on a necklace.
The necklace has grown heavy.
It helps other kids understand what Abigail is going through, Amy said.
Still, the prognosis is good.
Amy cried when the doctors told her about Abigail’s cancer. But the doctor told her to save her tears.
“You’ll need them for her wedding,” he said.