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Lauren Lichtenauer

Alumna's Non-Profit Provides Adaptive Bicycles to Children with Special Circumstances

By Abby Dawson '17

As a junior, secondary education and life sciences major at Otterbein University, Lauren Lichtenauer ’11 accepted an internship position that would fill one of her requirements for graduation. Little did she know, this opportunity at Camp Sunshine, a therapeutic camp in Portland, Maine for children battling life-threatening illnesses, would change her life.

Lichtenauer had always had a natural interest in children, but was anxious to work with those who were facing such circumstances as cancer, organ transplants and chronic diseases.

“From the first day on, my life had changed,” Lichtenauer said. “I met so many families with incredible stories and experiences.”

The Buzinski family was one of the families that had an overwhelming influence on Lichtenauer during her time at Camp Sunshine. Three of their four children face difficulties from Neurofibromatosis (NF), a disease that causes tumor formation throughout the body.

Christopher Buzinski was their second-born child and was diagnosed with NF, shortlyafter turning eight years old. It was at that point in which the life of the Buzinski's desperately started to take shape, explained Lichtenauer. Christopher faces Type 1 NF, coupled with Cerebral Palsy and Optic glioma, cancer of his optic nerve, and has undergone countless surgeries.

Zachary Buzinski, Christopher’s younger brother, also faces life-threatening complications from his NF and has had multiple surgeries on his trachea to allow for suitable breathing. Brianna is the oldest of the Buzinski children and struggles with NF and a plethora of other delays. Mia, the youngest child, does not have NF, but has the task of helping care for her brothers and sister.

“The Buzinski’s are the happiest, most thankful people I have ever met,”Lichtenauer said. “Despite the unsure prognoses of their children, they are determined to provide them with as many normal childhood experiences as possible.”

Upon returning from Camp Sunshine, with a few twists of fate and good fortune, Lichtenauer started a non-profit organization called Christopher’s Promise, which serves as a testament to her experience and to Christopher. Christopher's Promise is a grass-root, non-profit initiative to provide children under special circumstances with proper adaptive bicycles.

Although the idea to start the organization came easily to Lichtenauer, the process was not entirely seamless. In the beginning phases of Christopher’s Promise, it was difficult for Lichtenauer to find children and partners to support her initiative, because it was a new organization that was still establishing its brand and recognition.

Fortunately, an Otterbein professor, with whom Lichtenauer had kept in contact, was able to connect her with a physical therapist working at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, who began referring her patients to Christopher’s Promise and the organization flourished.

“Hands down, our biggest reward comes in the laughter and smile from our recipients as they jump on their bike the very first time,” said Lichtenauer. “Without the support of our sponsors--Athletes Helping Athletes; roll: bicycles, clothing, gear; KEEN Footwear, ITFW (In the Fourth Watch), B13 Studio, and Link Apparel--we absolutely could not do what we do.”

Christopher’s Promise is now beginning its fourth year of operation and has provided over 50 children in the central Ohio area with their first bicycles. As Lichtenauer and her partners work to grow their organization, they are looking for opportunities to spread the word and mission of Christopher’s Promise--helping kids, be kids.