Ocean City Today

Weekly cookouts for families at BIT House by the Sea

By Kara Hallissey | Jul 13, 2017
Photo by: Kara Hallissey Katie Wilhelm poses for a picture with her three children, from left, Alexis, Kannon and birthday boy, Kase during the Believe in Tomorrow cookout on Monday night at the 66th Street facility.

(July 14, 2017) During the summertime, the Believe in Tomorrow House by the Sea on 66th Street hosts a weekly cookout for families staying at the facility on Monday nights at 5 p.m., which allows guests to meet and enjoy a meal together on their first full day in Ocean City.

The intimate deck area has a couple picnic tables, chairs and a table set up with food generously donated by various restaurants in Ocean City and the surrounding areas. This past week, Smoker’s BBQ Pit in West Ocean City provided giant hot dogs, pulled pork, potato salad and macaroni and cheese.

Birch’s Market, also on Route 611, were cookout sponsors as well, with families enjoying watermelon, corn and vegetables. Shrimp, fried chicken, ice cream, cake and specialty drinks from the tiki bar were also available.

“It’s time we get to meet the families and they meet each other before spending a week in Ocean City,” said Susan Blaney, program and volunteer coordinator for the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Respite Housing Program. “They can bond and plan to hang out with each other. It is also time where they can ask any questions and get familiar and comfortable with us.”

New this year, Allison Barton, of The Children’s Book Garden in Ocean Pines, helped everyone make a family tree craft using paint and their handprints.

After witnessing a Monday night cookout, it is apparent how bonds can be made between families.

Ohioan Katie Wilhelm returned to Ocean City for the second summer with her three children this week. Last August, the Wilhelm family stayed at the Fenwick Island, Delaware, Believe in Tomorrow facility, and they have also visited the Believe In Tomorrow House on Wisp Mountain.

Last summer, they caught a Delmarva Shorebirds baseball game, went on a Coast Guard ride and played miniature golf, which is a favorite activity of 5-year-old and birthday boy, Kase Wilhelm.

After everyone was finished dinner on Monday night, he blew out his five candles on a Batman-themed birthday cake.

“We love it here,” Katie Wilhelm said. “To have this opportunity during a huge financial crisis… we would never be able to do it. It’s been really special to spend time together and get away and be normal. We try to keep his life as normal as possible and this is a big part of it too.”

Spending the day at Jolly Roger Amusements, beach time and multiple games of miniature golf are planned for this week.

Kase Wilhelm was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at 2.5 years old and has endured 17 lumbar punctures. He has three months of chemotherapy treatments to go.

Kosta and Sonja Hatzikostantis, from Indiana, drove almost 800 miles to Ocean City for the first time this week with their three children.

“It is the first time they’ve ever been to the ocean,” Kosta Hatzikostantis said. “We got here around 6 or 7 p.m. yesterday and went straight to the water. They had a blast getting hit by the big waves.”

Nine-year-old Ekaterina Hatzikostantis is excited to swim in the ocean and spend the day at Jolly Roger on 30th Street. The family also plans to take a ride with the Coast Guard and spend a morning fishing.

“We are super thankful. It is a great treat and very generous,” Kosta Hatzikostantis said. “We wouldn’t have made it out here. It’s a good break and getaway. The kids get to try and experience different things. We are very thankful.”

In November 2015, Ekaterina Hatzikostantis was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a brain tumor, and received countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. They were completed in January.

“We’re at the best place we’ve been in two years,” Hatzikostantis said. “She finished out the school year and will start fourth grade in the fall.”

The facility on 66th Street is open year-round to provide a free getaway to the beach for critically ill children and their families whenever they may need to escape the stresses of their child’s illness.

Each of the four condos feature kid-friendly décor and paintings with at least two bedrooms, a full bathroom, a fully-stocked kitchen, living and dining room areas.

Last year, Believe in Tomorrow acquired another property on 65th Street, which is just a few steps away from the back balcony of the 66th Street property and renovations are ongoing.

Families can also vacation at the Believe in Tomorrow House in Fenwick Island and House by the Bay on 28th Street.

Fundraisers help raise money to provide these essential week-long excursions for critically ill children and their families.

“What a cool program it is,” Sonja Hatzikostantis said. “We love it and are glad to be here. It is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Learn more about Believe in Tomorrow at http://believeintomorrow.org/ or call 410-723-2842.

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