Monday, January 21, 2013
MILTON-FREEWATER — In the place residents here have long roared for victory at sporting events, they did it again Sunday ... in hope of another team win.
Team Richwine, that is.
About 500 people gathered at McLoughlin High School’s gymnasium in the late afternoon in a mass plea designed to reach God’s ears, beseeching him to heal Ferndale Elementary School Principal Ron Richwine, who is known for his community engagement, sense of humor and rapport with students and their families.
Richwine, 44, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer last spring. Surgery appears to have failed to stop the march of cancer cells, and the family was told earlier this month that the husband and father of three likely has less than a year to live, according to a Facebook post by Ron’s wife, Amy Richwine, also an educator at Fendale.
The gathering was brainstormed by sisters Wendy Breeding and Kim Copenhaver, who pulled it together in a week.
“It was after church last Sunday that we thought ‘We need to pray for a miracle,’” Breeding said.
The community seemed to agree, filling in the gym’s bleachers on the frigid afternoon. Ron and Amy and their children — son Derek and daughters Sydney and Abby — were seated in the center of the gym floor.
“If you know Ron, as so many do, you know he doesn’t really want to be the center of attention,” noted the Rev. Doug Henrichs of First Community Church of Milton-Freewater. “So, for five seconds, let’s everybody stare at him.”
As people continued to fill the stands, Henrichs went on to talk about the pain Richwine is experiencing. “Every one of you wants to hug Ron for five minutes each, but he doesn’t have the strength for that.”
As an alternate, Henrichs asked those with the desire to do so to come forward and lay hands on the educator. The high school’s bleachers nearly emptied, those staying behind wearing somber expressions.
The cry to God was simple, the pastor explained. “We’re not going to beat around the bush — we want Ron healed.”
From white hair to tow heads, the crowd bowed as one and stretched out hands toward Richwine in agreement with those words. Then, less than an hour after assembling, the group dispersed, some hugging others and many shedding tears.
With a wave to those who came on his behalf, Ron took his leave. He and his wife are headed to Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Phoenix to seek possible treatment options, the family said.
The show of support was uplifting and testimony of how the community comes together for its own, Henrichs said afterward.
A benefit account has been established at Baker Boyer Bank. Donations can be made at any branch.