Cancer takes teen's life on day of benefit motorcycle ride

May 23, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Williamsport High School band director Robert Stike rode with a band t-shirt on his motorcycle as a way of representing Josh Forsythe Sunday during a ride sponsored by the Red Men Riders Club, Williamsport High School Blue Band Boosters and the school's athletic boosters. Proceeds from the event will go to Josh's family.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer,

WILLIAMSPORT -- As about 35 people prepared to set out on their motorcycles Sunday in a ride to raise money for cancer patient Josh Forsythe, they were told that the Williamsport High School student lost his battle against the disease.

People were shocked at the news that the 10th-grader died Sunday morning.

But the ride went on and at a dinner later in the evening at The Improved Order of Red Men Tribe 84 Club, friends of Forsythe grappled with the loss.

"A lot of people are going to be crying on Monday," said Williamsport High School sophomore Cassie Wollard, who had known Forsythe since she was in sixth grade.

Josh's family members could not be reached for comment Sunday night.

Tim Fraker, a Williamsport Town Council member and president of the motorcycle club that organized the ride, said people were told Sunday morning when they gathered for the ride that Forsythe died that morning.


The death was especially hard for people to understand because Forsythe was the second student at Williamsport High School to die after being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer.

Katarina "Katie" Stains, a former cheerleader at Williamsport High School, died March 31.

Katie was diagnosed in December 2008 and Forsythe was diagnosed in September 2008, according to Missy DeHaven, spokeswoman for the Williamsport High School Blue Band Boosters.

Various fundraisers have been held for Josh, and teachers and students at Williamsport High have become active in the fight against cancer, DeHaven and others said at Sunday's event.

A teacher at the high school designed a white and blue wristband inscribed with "WHS School of Hope." The wristbands were sold to raise money for two funds that were set up for Josh and Katie, DeHaven said.

"Cancer has really hit this high school hard in the last two or three years," DeHaven said.

Sunday's motorcycle ride was sponsored by the Red Men Riders, Williamsport High School Blue Band Boosters and the Williamsport High School Athletic Boosters.

Although the amount raised in the ride was not available Sunday night, the money will be given to Josh's family to help offset his medical bills, Fraker said.

Participants in Sunday's motorcycle ride paid $15 apiece to ride and passengers paid $5 each, according to organizers.

Participants rode into Boonsboro, then into Harpers Ferry, W.Va., Fraker said. The group then rode to Shepherdstown, W.Va., and over to Sharpsburg to finish their ride, he said.

Mike Baker, president of the Williamsport High band boosters, said he and another person wanted to have a different kind of fundraiser for Josh. Baker said he knew some people in the local Improved Order of Red Men Club and members of the group were receptive to helping out with the motorcycle ride.

The Red Men Riders Club provided the food for the dinner at the club along Md. 68, which started about 5 p.m., organizers said.

People who did not participate in the ride paid $10 for the meal.

About 100 gathered under a pavilion at the club's grounds, including Larry Heil of Hagerstown. Heil said his wife works with Josh's aunt.

Williamsport High School Band Director Robert Stike, who was at the dinner, said Josh was a hard worker and had a good sense of humor.

"He was a fun-loving kid," Stike said.

Although Josh, a trumpet player, was only able to attend about two weeks of band camp as part of the Williamsport High School marching band, members kept in close touch with him, DeHaven said.

The Herald-Mail Articles