Bish Bash helps families battle cancer


By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

It’s just over seven years since Cindy and Michael Bish lost their son, Sam, to cancer.

Earlier that same year, in 2010, the Reynoldsburg couple’s church and community rallied together to hold an event to help the family with medical and everyday expenses. It was an effort to surround the family with joy by offering games, food and entertainment while raising money to help relieve the financial burden that came with Sam’s medical care.

“More than the funds being raised, though, we just loved seeing Sam carefree and being able to be a kid again,” Cindy Bish said.

For one day, she said, he was able to forget he had cancer and simply enjoy the day.

“We knew after he passed away that we needed to continue the Bish Bash tradition to help bring smiles to the kids and families’ faces during their pediatric cancer journey,” she said.

Now in its 7th year, Bish Bash will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 16 at Westerville Christian Church, 471 E. College Ave., Westerville. The event will include food trucks, a visit from Columbus Zoo animals and Magic Nate, a bake sale, entertainment, inflatables, character appearances, face painting and games.

Admission is $8, with children younger than 2 free. Proceeds raised will go toward helping families fighting pediatric cancer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, as well as supporting families who live out of state – many that must travel for medical care.

For the past six years of fundraising, Bish said the event has raised more than $60,000 for the Sam Bish Foundation, a non-profit organization the Bishes created to provide families of children battling pediatric cancer with financial and emotional support. The foundation also works alongside other local pediatric cancer foundations to raise hope and awareness throughout the community.

In years past, Bish Bash has been held in August, but the Bish family opted to move this year’s event to September to coincide with Pediatric Cancer Awareness month.

Cancer is still the leading cause of death from disease among U.S. children older than age 1. Among children, from birth to age 19, more than 18,000 cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. Although some progress against childhood cancer has been made, cure rates for some pediatric cancers remain below 50 percent.

As an 8-year-old, Sam Bish was a typical kid. He was going into the third grade at French Run Elementary, and loved video games, LEGOs and spending time with family and friends. During the summer of 2009, he began to experience pain in his right knee. That pain became more intense – waking him up in the middle of the night.

At first thinking it was a strain or pulled muscle, his parents took him to an orthopedic doctor, who ordered an X-ray that revealed a mass on his right knee. Within days, he was admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where he underwent further testing.

Doctors diagnosed Sam with Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. Tests showed the cancer had metastasized to the spine, left femur and both lungs. In addition to chemotherapy, Sam underwent four surgeries, including one that amputated his right leg above the knee to remove the main feeding tumor and one that removed a portion of his left fibula that had been infected with cancer as well.

In early 2010, Sam had three lung surgeries, of which two removed a total of 80 cancerous nodules from both lungs.

After returning from a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World in July 2010, Sam underwent his last inpatient chemo treatment. He and his family were hopeful treatments had worked, but further tests revealed the cancer in fact had come back stronger.

With no further treatments that could be done, the Bishes made the decision to place their son in hospice care and allow him to spend what time he had left in the comfort of his own home.
Sam died Aug. 20, 2010, surrounded by family and friends.

Cindy says before Sam died, he made his parents and friends promise to help all kids like him, bringing them support, hope and smiles.

In addition to founding the Sam Bish Foundation, the Bish family has continued the Bish Bash event as a way to give back and help families, just as their community helped them.

“The event has impacted us because our family was personally blessed by the event in 2010 as a fundraiser for our family,” Bish said. “We knew we had to continue the tradition of Bish Bash to bring smiles to kids’ faces and bring families together outside of the hospital walls.”
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