Painted unicorns provide therapy and funds for grieving family

By RYAN LESSARD
Union Leader Correspondent
July 11. 2018 11:25PM
A group of 23 kids painted unicorns at Hammar's Art Studio in Pelham on Saturday in honor of the Wojcik family. Mom Danielle Wojcik died just two days before. (COURTESY)

The Wojcik family — Hannah and Hunter with dad, Randy and mom, Danielle. (COURTESY)

PELHAM — The community is rallying behind the family of Danielle Wojcik, 38, who died last week after a battle with kidney cancer.

On Saturday, her husband, Randy Wojcik, 40, and children Hunter, 10, and Hannah, 9, painted unicorns together at a local art studio.

Wojcik said he misses his wife, who worked as a lunch lady and classroom aide at Pelham Memorial School, and helped with the Girl Scouts, of which her daughter was a member.

“I never imagined that I would find someone like her,” Wojcik said. “She was really a fabulous person. I called her my super-wife.”

She passed quietly surrounded by friends and family, he said.

The painting workshop at Hammar’s Art Studio in Pelham had planned the fundraiser event before her death. Studio owner Brianna Rolfs said Danielle had been a loyal customer since she opened the business in 2016. And Rolfs’ son had been in a Cub Scout pack that Randy led.

Rolfs said she received a message from Danielle on Facebook about a week and a half ago saying her daughter wanted to paint a unicorn, which was one of several images Rolfs posted online for upcoming workshops.

“At the time, I had no idea what was going on,” Rolfs said.

She later learned of the illness from Facebook so she created the event in honor of the family.

Rolfs said the event sold out, with about 23 children painting, including both Hunter and Hannah Wojcik, and a large number of adults also on hand. Several people not in attendance also donated to a PayPal account set up to benefit the family.

“All three of us want to go back again. It was a fun family event,” Wojcik said. “It was therapeutic, I guess you could say.”

Wojcik said they received hundreds of dollars from the event.

Another fundraiser has been scheduled for July 15 at Altitude Trampoline Park at 150 Bridge St., from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $20 for jumpers, $10 for non-jumpers. There will be a bake sale, raffles, a 50/50 and more.

The event was organized by Pam Bailey, the general manager of Altitude and Hannah’s Girl Scout troop leader, along with a group of Girl Scout moms who noticed months ago when Randy started bringing Hannah to the Scout meetings instead of Danielle.

“We’re a very close-knit group of families,” Bailey said.

The Facebook page — Wojcik Warriors — has information about the event. They’re also selling $5 rubber bracelets that say Wojcik Warriors. The bracelets are yellow, which was Danielle’s favorite color.

“We used to call her Danyellow,” Bailey said.

Wojcik has been resistant to organizing a fundraising page online, but said the money has helped with medical expenses such as co-pays and prescriptions that have thrown off his family’s budget over the past year.

A couple rounds of donations collected at Wojcik’s work also raised more than $2,500 to help with expenses. A community food train has fed the family.

Wojcik said Danielle began losing weight last summer, and by August she started feeling dizzy and lightheaded. After a doctor’s visit in October, Danielle was thought to be anemic and received blood transfusions. It wasn’t until January that a CAT scan revealed the tumor in her right kidney and lesions on her lungs.

“Most of the time, kidney cancer is found by accident,” Wojcik said.

He said there’s no way to screen for it, so when it was detected in Danielle, doctors believe she had had cancer for about two years, making the disease harder to treat.

A June biopsy revealed the tumor had been growing rapidly and a subsequent CAT scan on June 19 showed the cancer had spread throughout her whole body, Wojcik said. The doctors said she had about three months left to live.

Wojcik, who works installing TV, internet and phone service for Verizon, said the past several months have taken a toll on him.

“I don’t know how many basements I’ve broken down and cried in, in the beginning,” he said.

Toward the end, Wojcik said Danielle was more active and able to run errands with him because she was taken off the debilitating medications.

“She was nice and alive. She was awake for the kids,” Wojcik said.

“It was just all the side effects from the medicine wearing off.”

ldnews@unionleader.com


Human InterestGeneral NewsPelham

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