by Winda Collins
Jackie Pische and her husband Mike came face-to-face with the dark side of humanity when, in December 2013, their son Joshua Richards, died from a gunshot wound he suffered at the hand of another. Only parents who have lost a child can understand how deep grief can be, especially under such tragic circumstances. But being the strong people they are, and knowing the kind of man their son was and what he would have wanted, Josh’s story is still unfolding.
The reason that the Potawatomi Traveling Times (PTT) is sharing this story with the community is, on the surface, pretty simple. A chance encounter with Jackie and a single question she asked set this process in motion. You see, both Jackie and her husband Mike are employed by the Forest County Potawatomi (FCP). Jackie, a 12-year employee, is director of the FCPC Tribal Child Support Agency; her husband, Mike, is a three-year employee who works for the Housing Department.
The question Jackie asked was, “Does the Traveling Times ever do stories on the different events the tribe sponsors?” The answer is, of course, yes. Scores of stories have been done on racing partnerships over the years. There have been many photos of donations made by the community to area schools, fire and rescue departments, etc. What many might not realize is how much good the FCPC does behind the scenes – away from the limelight.
But, back to the story.
Although no one could have known it at the time, a pivotal point in Josh’s life came when he chose to become an organ donor at the age of 16 when obtaining his driver’s license. This act would very literally allow Josh’s kind and giving spirit to live on long after his death.
Being an organ and tissue donor, Josh has helped seven through gifts of organs, aided two in regaining sight, and there have been over 239 tissue grants. One of those 239 was Jackie who was able to use Josh’s tissue when she had back surgery. In a 2014 story by another publication, Jackie made the statement, “He’ll always be with me, but this will be a different piece. He’ll help me heal and make my back better, which is something he would have wanted.”
Family and friends founded the Joshua J Richards Charitable Foundation (Josh’s Foundation) to “…keep his good name alive by raising awareness for the organ, eye and tissue donations programs, and to raise funds to help children who may not have the resources available to participate in sports and extracurricular activities.”
In those efforts, two annual events were created:
Hit ‘er Whiff Golf Outing held in June at the Mid Vallee Golf Course in DePere, the last of which, the third annual, raised almost $18,000 thanks to 27 volunteers and 96 golfers! Three of those four-person teams consisted of FCP community members and the event’s major sponsor was the FCPC.
The other is the Stringer Poker Run scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17. Almost 70 participated in last year’s run raising $3,400. The poker run begins and ends at Mountain Springs Motel in Mountain with stops at Spirits of Gillett, Eagles Nest in Suring, AA Bar in Breed, Everbreeze in Chute Pond, The School House in Mountain and Mulligans in Mountain. All stops are accessible by ATV trails, and everyone is welcome to travel by car or motorcycle. For those not wishing to drive, there is a bus available. Free food and raffles await at Mountain Springs Motel.
To date, the Foundation has raised over $55,000. Those who have benefitted from these funds include the University of Wisconsin Organ Donor Program, Gillett School District, Oconto River Kids, Menominee Tribal Hoops Program and other individuals in need.
Anyone interested in learning more about Josh’s Foundation, its events, or perhaps about organ/tissue donations, please feel free to inquire at email@example.com.
As Josh’s story continues to unfold and to bless others, there’s only one thing left to share: the heartfelt gratitude of Jackie and Mike to the FCPC for being such a positive and supportive leader, not only in Forest County, but across the state of Wisconsin. Chi Migwetch!
Pictured are (inset and l-r): Joshua Richards, Jackie Pische, Joshua’s mother; Matthew Dickman, grandson of Larry Hart who received Joshua’s lungs; and Ben Adler who received Joshua’s heart.
photo courtesy UW Health Transplant Program and UW Organ and Tissue Donation 2016 Calendar