‘Human Etch-A-Sketch’ to run for local child battling cancer

Published 9:22 pm Friday, May 17, 2024

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NILES — A man known as the “Human Etch-A-Sketch” will arrive in downtown Niles tomorrow to support a local child battling cancer. 

Tomorrow morning, Iowa resident Rik Zortman will be running through downtown Niles using GPS to spell the words “Twins” and “Gabe,” in honor of Ollie Gauthier’s twin brother, Gabe.  Ollie is a local boy who has been battling medulloblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Zortman has been featured on ESPN and has run in twenty-six states, two foreign countries and every county in Iowa. He has run more than 1,700 consecutive days for similar causes. 

Organized by local veterans, community leaders, first responders, educators, schools, athletic teams and families, the event begins at 8 a.m. in Riverfront Park and is free for everyone to attend. Free premium coffee and twenty-four dozen donuts will be served and donations will be accepted. Donations can also be made at local Fifth Third Bank branches to the “Ollie Strong” account.

Zortman, who met Gauthier and his family a few years ago, is looking forward to celebrating Ollie and raising funds to help with medical bills.

“I’m pretty excited to see Ollie and the family again,” Zortman said. “Whatever we do, it’s going to help the medical costs for Ollie’s family. I’m excited to see what kind of difference we can make.”

Zortman runs in communities across the country using GPS to provide comfort and support for those going through the unimaginable. He has been doing so ever since his son Armstrong passed away more than a decade ago.  

“What I enjoy most is to be able to share stories with other people and to be able to run for somebody,” Zortman said. “Everyone has a story. These kids didn’t ask for cancer.”