By Christine Bryant
Samuel Bish was a typical 8-year-old boy. Headed into third grade at French Run Elementary in Reynoldsburg, he loved video games, Legos and spending time with his family and friends.
His parents became concerned, however, that a lingering pain in his leg was affecting his quality of life and made an appointment with an orthopedic specialist, expecting a pulled muscle or other minor ailment.
After ordering an X-ray, the doctor instead discovered a mass on his right knee. The diagnosis confirmed the family’s worst fear – Sam had Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, and the cancer had already metastasized to the spine, left femur and both lungs.
Chemotherapy began immediately, followed by several surgeries. In October 2009, surgeons amputated his right leg above the knee to remove the tumor.
More surgeries followed – some on his lungs where cancerous nodules had grown – and chemo continued. The following year, despite feeling better, Sam’s cancer returned – this time, in several new locations as well as his lungs and left leg.
With nothing more doctors could do, his parents, Michael and Cindy, made the decision to place their son in hospice care. Surrounded by his loved ones, at age 9, Sam died Aug. 20, 2010.
Before Sam died, however, he insisted his parents and friends promise to help other kids like him – to bring them hope, support and smiles.
His parents did just that – establishing the Sam Bish Foundation in 2010. The foundation works closely with hospitals – including Nationwide Children’s – to provide resources to families fighting pediatric cancer.
About the Sam Bish Foundation
Although the Sam Bish Foundation may be a small organization, it’s doing big things to bring hope to children and their loved ones.
After receiving referrals, the foundation provides families with financial assistance for rent and mortgage payments, utility payments, car repairs, gas and food.
“Many times when a child is diagnosed with cancer, one of the parents has to stop working in order to be with the child at the hospital and take them to all of their appointments,” Cindy said. “The financial assistance the foundation is able to provide is such a blessing for the families as they struggle financially through this diagnosis.”
Volunteers with the foundation also send care packages to kids in treatment, and several times throughout the year, provide a catered meal on the hematology/oncology floor at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Each October, the foundation hosts a Halloween party for patients as well.
“It’s really difficult to be in the hospital for extended periods of time, especially when it’s over a holiday,” Cindy said. “We try to make Halloween fun for the kids who have to remain in the hospital, and our foundation also sponsors several families for Christmas each year to help ease some of the financial burden that the holidays can bring.”
Throughout the year, the foundation also donates craft kits, toys, books and gift cards to the hospital.
This summer, on the 6th anniversary of Sam’s death Aug. 20, the foundation will once again hold its annual Bish Bash, an indoor carnival themed event that is open to the community.
“We encourage and invite many pediatric cancer families to attend the event, and they are able to attend by receiving free admission,” Cindy said. “We want our Bish Bash event to be a fun family time for all that are able to attend, and especially to bring some smiles and cheer to the families that are in the midst of treatment for pediatric cancer.”
More children die from cancer in the United States than any other disease, and before they turn 20, about 1 in 285 children in the U.S. will have cancer, according to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Yet less than 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research.
“We need better research for pediatric cancer and more funding for better research so no more families have to experience what our family has gone through,” Cindy said. “These children are our future and they deserve more.”
How to help
The Sam Bish Foundation also supports pediatric cancer organizations that are making strides toward new research, including the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Next month, on March 19 at Fado Irish Pub at Easton Town Center, St. Baldrick’s will hold its annual head shaving event to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. Sam’s dad, Michael, will be on hand, participating in this event that annually raises thousands of dollars.
For those who would like to help in other ways, Cindy says the Sam Bish Foundation is always looking for volunteers and posts foundation updates on the organization’s Facebook page.
“We are also always looking for families, places of business and even schools to partner with the foundation in bringing about awareness and resources for families fighting pediatric cancer,” she said. “We do rely on donations to continue the work that we do through the foundation.”
Donations may be sent to Sam Bish Foundation, P.O. Box 323, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068. The organization is a nonprofit, and can provide a tax receipt for any donation received.
“Our hope for the foundation is that we can continue to provide financial and emotional support for many families fighting pediatric cancer while continuing to provide awareness for this devastating disease,” Cindy said.For more information on Bish Bash or the Sam Bish Foundation, go to sambishfoundation.org. For more information on the St. Baldrick’s head shaving event, go to stbaldricks.org.