CHARACTER, COURAGE AND CARING
LEBRON’S BIKEATHON HEROES
There will be a heroic story quietly occurring amidst the cacophony of hundreds of bicycle riders in the LeBron’s (James) State Farm King for Kids Bikeathon this Saturday, August 22 in downtown Akron.
Eleven year old Andrew Petrisko desperately wants to join the other children, sporting ear-to-ear grins as they ride with the NBA’s premier superstar from Akron. But his nearly life-long battle with kidney disease— FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulo Sclerosis) — threatened to keep Andrew from the starting line this Saturday morning with LeBron James and several of his own celebrity friends.
The NBA All Star from the Cleveland Cavaliers will host the popular family-friendly fundraising event to recognize and reward Akron-area children who have achieved academic success, improved their physical fitness and made important contributions to the community. Registration is at 7:30 a.m., the eight-mile main ride, three-mile family ride and the kids’ invitational ride begin at 9 at Canal Park. (For more, go to http://www.kingforkidsbikeathon.com
While the race features more than 3,500 riders taking on the streets of Akron, the Kids’ Invitational includes 400 children ages nine to 14 who have been nominated for their character, courage or acts of merit. Andrew Petrisko is one of the nominees this year. Akron Children’s Hospital submitted his name as one of five children who have displayed tenacity and optimism in their battles with chronic illnesses.
Andrew became aware of the nomination during his hospitalization in the spring. His father, Scott Petrisko, said, ‘Things became very scary’, as Andrew’s immune system sent his body spiraling toward kidney failure. At age six, doctors removed both of Andrew’s kidneys. Then, his mother, Rebecca, donated a kidney to him.
His condition stabilized for the next several years, but this summer doctors at Children’s Hospital had to come up with new ways to treat Andrew’s illness. But the treatments put a stop to many of his activities. Rebecca Petrisko said, ‘Andrew doesn’t complain or waste time feeling sorry for himself. He’s a great role model for other children’. She went on to say that Andrew stayed engaged in athletics during the summer by coaching his little sister’s softball team.
When it became apparent that his condition might keep him out of the bikeathon, LaTonya Lewis from Children’s Hospital reached out for alternatives. City of Akron Coordinator for Arts and Children’s Programs, Suzie Graham, agreed to research possibilities for making the event happen for Andrew.
That’s when Rob Holl, formerly of Stark County and now a Florida resident, stepped him. His ties to Children’s Hospital go back to the time they cared for his infant daughter 23 years ago. Holl even designed what he calls the Carebike, for her to improve the quality of her life and the experiences that are often missed by those who live within the limitations of a wheelchair. The Carebike is a combination bicycle and wheelchair, and Rob Holl jumped at the chance to provide one so Andrew could ride.
This morning, Holl was scheduled to leave Florida with two Carebikes in tow on a journey back to Akron. But, as it turns out, Andrew’s treatments have begun to pull him out of kidney failure. His strong recovery means he will join LeBron and the other 399 children at the starting line of the invitational ride on his new Schwinn Evolution two-wheel bike.
And the Carebikes coming to Akron? Rob Holl is providing them to two other nominees of Children’s Hospital, both of whom are fighting tie own battle with chronic illness. Through his generosity and inventive design, they’ll be in the ride, and Rob himself will serve as one of the boy’s chaperones, riding him through the one mile course.
Saturday will be a day to celebrate heroes on and off the court.