Joshua Pieters, of Shelby Township, was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in September of 2016.

Joshua Pieters, of Shelby Township, was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in September of 2016.

Photo provided by HSN

Donations make special wishes come true for cancer warriors

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 19, 2021


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Donations being made to a special foundation are making wishes possible for local cancer warriors to give them a reason to celebrate and forget about cancer for a while.

Nik’s Wish, the Nikolas Ritschel Foundation, is a 501(c)(3) charity based in Rockford, Illinois. Its mission is to bring joy throughout the nation to young adults who are between the ages of 18 and 24 and fighting cancer by granting wishes to them. Joshua Pieters, 25, of Shelby Township, is one of the people who Nik’s Wish serves, because they are a little too old for other wish-granting programs.

Nik Ritschel was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma cancer just before his 18th birthday and was granted a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. According to the Nikolas Ritschel Foundation, having his wish fulfilled meant the world to him, so he asked to help others with a foundation for young adult cancer patients who missed out on a wish because they were diagnosed after turning 18.

Since 2012, Nik’s Wish has granted more than 195 wishes in 33 states. Once granted, a volunteer wish maker works directly with the wisher and the wisher’s loved ones to make the arrangements.

Some wishes include celebrating the end of treatment, wishes to encourage patients to keep fighting during treatment, and even last wishes to bring families together to create precious moments of joy.

Pieters was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in his lumbar and sacral regions of the spine in September of 2016. At that time, he was a student at Western Michigan University studying to become a pilot. He went through several hours-long surgeries and treatments that involved inpatient hospital stays every other week. He spent 5 1/2 weeks recovering from surgery, including intensive physical therapy, and in that time had his first of 14 rounds of inpatient chemotherapy. His family spent the better part of a year living around his chemotherapy.

Pieters ended treatment in the spring of 2017. Although he had nerve damage that impacted his stability and mobility, he was able to move back to school in the fall of 2017. However, the Federal Aviation Administration no longer considered him physically able to continue his studies to become a pilot. He switched his major to aviation management.

However, in June of 2019, only a month after they had follow-up scans, his back started hurting again and scans confirmed that he had a new tumor in his thoracic spine. After more treatment, including another six weeks away for radiation, he finished at the end of April 2020, right smack in the middle of COVID-19.

Laura Pieters, Joshua Pieters’ mom, said they reached out to the foundation to give her son something special to look forward to during his treatments.

“We wanted to reach out to apply for a wish for Josh so that we all had something positive to look forward to. Josh has expressed a desire to visit New York to visit some historical sites. He is a big history buff. He found a speakeasy in New York that existed during Prohibition called the Back Room. He talks about it frequently, how interesting it would be and what a unique experience it would be to visit. He also has expressed an interest in seeing the play ‘Hamilton,’” said Laura Pieters.

Pieters’ wish has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation has reached out a few times during the pandemic and sent a couple of care packages to let the family know that the foundation is thinking about them.

Laura Pieters said this special gift of granting wishes provides the wisher and the family with something to look forward to and an opportunity to make special memories together that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.

“What a gift that Nik and his family were able to make those memories. I mention this because, at the heart of each encounter we have had with Kelli and her team, we have always felt fully understood and cared about. It is so clear that this mission is a labor of love,” said Laura Pieters.

Help for Nik’s Wish
The Nikolas Ritschel Foundation has been chosen by HSN, formerly Home Shopping Network, to receive a $1,000 donation to help grant wishes.

During April, HSN also will match customer donations to Nik’s Wish made through HSN’s Partners in Giving page, up to an additional $5,000. Only donations made through HSN’s Partners in Giving page will qualify for the match.

HSN Cares chose Nik’s Wish from a pool of hundreds of nominees submitted by HSN customers in honor of April’s Customer Appreciation Month. Each day in April, HSN will feature a different charity on-air and donate $1,000 to that charity. All 30 charities are eligible for the HSN match of customer donations.

When founder Kelli Ritschel Boehle heard about Nik’s Wish being chosen, she was overjoyed.

“We are honored to be one of the charities selected this year. The HSN Cares award will help fund one or more wishes granted to young adult cancer warriors (age 18-24). Fighting cancer is extremely hard; fighting cancer during a pandemic is all the more difficult. Thank you, HSN Cares, for helping Nik’s Wish bring joy during such a challenging time,” she said in a prepared statement.

Kate Sheehan, senior manager of community affairs at Qurate Retail Group, home to HSN, said that through the donations, they are able to help many local foundations.

“Through our $1,000 A Day Giveaway, we support the charities that are close to our customers’ hearts. As we enter our seventh year of this initiative, we are proud not only to help these charities financially, but also to provide them with a platform to share their mission on a national level.”

For more information or to donate, visit To learn more about the Nik’s Wish, visit or