Angels of Childhood Cancer plans fundraiser

WAPAKONETA — Sometimes it’s the little things that count the most, and few understand the truth in that statement better than those who know and love a child afflicted with cancer.

On Sept. 16, 2017, local residents will have an opportunity to lend a hand to several families who know understand it all too well and are dealing with situations in life few could ever imagine or comprehend unless being in the same shoes.

The Angels of Childhood Cancer Foundation or ACCF will have its debut fundraiser in the K of C Hall, 614 Dixie Highway, Wapakoneta. Admission to the event is free. The event kicks off at 1 p.m. and ends at midnight. There will be a variety of activities, games and entertainment for all in attendance plus a chance to help lift the burden of those struggling with childhood cancer.

Registration for a corn hole tournament begins at 1 p.m., with the tournament beginning at 3 p.m., and costs $20 per team. The band, “Outspoken,” from Lakeview, will provide music from 8 p.m. to midnight, and there will be a cash bar. A spaghetti dinner provided by Skyline Chili of Troy will be served from 4 to 7 p.m. The cost of the dinner is $10 per person.

There will be games and inflatables for the kids to play in, weather permitting, and Ruffles the Clown will be provide balloons and face-painting as well. The ACCF custom-built motorcycle will be on display featuring a full size portrait of Katelyn on the gas tank. Children can have their photos taken while sitting on the bike. Throughout the afternoon and evening there will be silent auctions, drawings for prizes and raffles for firearms provided by Tactical Solutions of Sidney.

ACCF Founder and President Michael Manger, of Anna, is no stranger to helping others in need, and it all began with a post on Facebook in May or June 2011.

“At that time, I was involved with doing charity work in a motorcycle ministry and was looking for ideas to help others on a similar group’s Facebook page,” he said. “They had a post about an 11-year-old girl with blood cancer they were helping in Tennessee; the child’s name was Katelyn Norman and her mother, Erica, was pleading for blood donations. I had always been an avid blood donor and had 43 units to my credit and looked into transferring my credits, as the cost associated with buying enough blood and paying for treatments to satisfy Katelyn’s needs was astronomical and had drained the family savings. Unfortunately, new state regulations prohibited the transfer, leaving me wondering what to do as I felt convicted to help out somehow. I don’t know how many times I told my wife, Diane, I wished there was something I could do.”

Time passed and the conviction grew. Not a day went by that Manger did not think about the photo of that little girl in Tennessee. More time passed.

“I felt God had put on my heart to go down there and see what I could do,” Manger said. “I knew there had to be a reason I should go. So, in early December when I called Katelyn’s mother to see how things were going, she thanked me for my concern and invited me to come visit with Katelyn on Dec. 18. I gladly accepted her invitation.”

Though winter was closing in and with it, colder temperatures, Manger felt it necessary to make the trip on his motorcycle. Preparations were made and on Dec. 18, Manger and a friend left at 4 a.m. and headed for Tennessee.

“It was a crisp 18 degrees when we left. It was the coldest ride ever for me, and we stopped often to stretch and warm up. The five and a half-hour trip took eight hours, but the excitement of being able to help that little girl kept us moving,” said Manger.

Upon reaching their destination, Manger was prepared for the worst, assuming an atmosphere of despair, but he couldn’t have been more wrong.

“I was not prepared for what happened next,” Manger said. “Instead of gloom and doom, we were greeted with a smiles and heartfelt words of thanksgiving!”

After introductions, Manger listened intently as Katelyn recounted what she had experienced since finding out she had cancer.

“It was not what I expected from an 11-year-old child,” he said. “She seemed so mature and spoke matter-of-factly about her situation with no hint of sorrow. Her conversation was adorned with smiles, jokes and laughter. If not for her total loss of hair, one would never know there was anything wrong. She shared stories about her diagnosis, treatments and reconstructive surgeries as if it was a normal way of life. I was amazed with her character, strength and courage. Her smile, soft voice and beautiful eyes stole my heart.”

After an enlightening and pleasant conversation, Katelyn grew tired, and it was time to go. The visitors shared hugs, prayers and goodbyes and then climbed back on their bikes and headed for home. The men rode off into the frigid sunset and cold front that had moved in. They ran into snow shortly before coming to the Ohio state line. Onward they traveled with warm hearts and no regrets, arriving back home at around 2 a.m.

In the months to come, Manger read everything he could get his hands on concerning childhood cancer.

“I always thought only adults got cancer. I was shocked to learn how prevalent and devastating childhood cancer is. It drains families financially, often costing $40,000 or more for each day in a hospital. It sometimes turns siblings against each other because of changes in lifestyles, and more often than not leads to divorce in families with two parents,” Manger said. “Most people know it’s bad but have no idea how overwhelming it can be. Educating myself took time but helped me grow in my efforts to help those in need.”

Upon returning home, Manger and Diane contacted some folks with a motorcycle ministry near Knoxville, Tennessee, and put a game plan together for a blood drive. In July 2012, their event raised more than $3,000 and 35 units of blood were donated. The Mangers stayed in contact with Katelyn and her mother on Facebook and called each other from time to time to stay abreast of Katelyn’s condition. Though Katelyn fought a good fight and continued with conventional cancer treatments, her condition worsened and the illness and treatments took their toll. Katelyn died, March 29, 2013, at 8:10 in the morning on Good Friday.

“When she passed away, I felt like I had lost a daughter. We attended Katelyn’s funeral, and when I laid my hand on her casket, I vowed I would get her story out no matter what it took,” said Manger.

Manger was as good as his word. In the next three years, he worked with several agencies to help children with cancer. While doing so, he learned that often, too much of the funding raised and money donated was gobbled up by administrative costs with little actually reaching the children in need. With this in mind, he determined that the best thing to do was start up a foundation where he could make sure the lion’s share of the donations made it to their intended destinations. Manger noted one of his goals was to keep the money donated by Ohioans in Ohio and is currently helping families in Ada, Botkins, Sidney and Troy.

In January 2017, Manger formed the Angels of Childhood Cancer Foundation (ACCF) with the help of Cure Search in Columbus. Cure Search had a nonprofit designation, which made it possible for Manger to partner with the organization. For its part, Cure Search receives a token percentage of funds raised each year but helps with networking to find every available resource to help families stricken with this dreadful disease.

“We all work together,” Manger said. “You’d be amazed at all the people working to help the kids. It’s encouraging, to say the least. I’m often asked why we work so hard at fundraising considering we have never had cancer in our family. I tell people it’s because the last words you’ll ever want to hear as a parent are, ‘Your child has cancer.’We want to be there for those who have heard those words.”

Manger is encouraging everyone who can to come to this year’s fundraiser in Wapakoneta but noted it is a busy time of year.

“If you can’t come to our fundraiser but would still like to donate to help the kids, there are a number of ways to do so. No donation is too small,” he said.

Those wishing to donate can visit the Paypal website and click on the “Send money” link at the top of the page; just type in and the amount and hit send. For information on how to help, visit ACCF on Facebook or call Manger at 937-726-9309.

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A visitor at the Fryburg Homecoming sits on the Angels of Childhood Cancer Foundation motorcycle. visitor at the Fryburg Homecoming sits on the Angels of Childhood Cancer Foundation motorcycle. Michael Manger | Sidney Daily News

A visitor at the Fryburg Homecoming sits on the Angels of Childhood Cancer Foundation motorcycle. visitor at the Fryburg Homecoming sits on the Angels of Childhood Cancer Foundation motorcycle. Michael Manger | Sidney Daily News

By Matt Clayton

For the Sidney Daily News

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.