For anyone living in coastal Sussex County, chances are they know the Gichner family. Whether they or their child had Joanne Gichner as a teacher at Lord Baltimore Elementary School, or played soccer at River Soccer Club or went to school with one of their three kids, or made use of Mike Gichner’s trucking company, the family has been a frequent sight in the area. They have always taken an active part in the community, and now the community is taking its turn to help them.
A few months ago, Gichner was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal/stomach cancer, and on Wednesday, May 11, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. a benefit dinner for him will be held at the Cottage Café near Bethany Beach.
His daughter, Katie, along with her good friend Morgan Kerns, started planning the fundraiser less than a month ago, to try to raise money to help cover her father’s medical expenses.
“It’s pretty serious,” said Katie Gichner of her father’s condition, adding that he’s lost about 100 pounds in the last couple of months, due to his illness.
“As a father, he is the only one I would ever want. He is loving and caring. But, most importantly, I can tell him anything. He is a loving man that everyone loves. I know it sounds clichéd, but I would never ask for a different dad, and I honestly believe he is the best one out there.
“My dad is the best father anyone could ask for,” she added. “I’m a total daddy’s girl. I remember when I was 7, I’d go to work with him. The night before, my mom and I would pack a lunch and a bag of fun things to keep me busy. I’d wake up at 5 a.m. with him and sit in the truck with him all day. He even let me talk on his CB radio, to his friends.”
Those dining during the three-hour fundraiser will see 15 percent of their food purchases go to the Gichners. There will also be a “Chinese auction,” which will include donated gift certificates from local businesses, including Off the Hook, Ocean View Deli, McCabe’s Gourmet Market and Made By Hand.
“I’ve got a bunch of gift certificates from local restaurants and businesses that have donated different things that are going to be auctioned off that night, that people can buy raffle tickets for and put in a jar for each separate item,” explained Gichner.
“We’re so grateful for the tight-knit community that we have,” she said.
Gichner noted that she and Kerns spent a weekend putting up flyers around the community to promote the event, and business owners saw what they were doing and asked if they could donate.
“‘What else can we do? Can we give you gift cards?’” she recalled being asked. “I was at a loss for words. It was so gracious.”
Gichner said that those who want to donate directly may make contributions to the Mike Gichner Cancer Fund at Fulton Bank in Ocean View.
“The money that we get from this fundraiser is going to go into that account, that they’re going to use for gas and hotel rooms if they need to be closer to the hospital – things like that.”
Gichner said her family is doing pretty well, given the circumstances. She is currently finishing up her junior year at the University of Delaware and said her older brother, Dave, is living with their parents to help out.
“He’s around, which is great. He’s getting a little stuff done that my parents can’t do. My middle brother [Ben] goes to law school up in Pennsylvania, and he hasn’t even seen my dad yet.”
The community’s support and outreach to her family, she added, has been tremendous, and she said they are truly thankful.
“Oh, my God, it’s unbelievable,” said Gichner. “There’s not one day that goes by that at least one person doesn’t stop in and say hi or bring food over. It has been amazing. We have a great, close-knit group of friends, and the support has been amazing.”
For more information, call the Cottage Café at (302) 537-7700. To donate to the Mike Gichner Cancer Fund, call (302) 539-8031 or visit Fulton Bank at 60 Atlantic Avenue in Ocean View.