NANTICOKE — Nanticoke rallied for one of its own on Sunday.
Half a world away, another man is helping him out.
Since November, the city’s mayor, Richie Wiaterowski, has been battling acute myeloid leukemia or AML. The city gathered together at the Nanticoke Armory to raise money to help cover the costs of his medical bills.
Wiaterowski said the support was “overwhelming.”
“My doctors said I wasn’t even supposed to be here, but there was no way I could miss it,” he said, pulling aside the surgical mask covering his face.
Since his diagnosis in November, Wiaterowski said that he’s only been able to spend a total of 20 days at home. The rest of that time has been spent in and out of hospitals in Philadelphia.
But that hasn’t put a damper on the love he has for his town. Wiaterowski said that scenes like Sunday’s were what he wants people known Nanticoke for.
“These are Nanticoke people. They’re good people,” he said “When someone’s sick, they come out and pull together.”
And pull together they did.
Throughout the day, more than 1,000 people came in to support the mayor, according to his sister Nancy Potsko.
Residents of Nanticoke and others packed into the armory to try food and beer, listen to live music or simply to offer the mayor well. Many of those supporters donned bright orange t-shirts that read “The Mayor’s Battle Is My Battle.”
Potsko, who organized Sunday’s event, said she was thrilled by the turnout.
“It means a lot; it’s amazing, overwhelming and emotional all at once,” she said.
In addition to the other festivities, Potsko said attendees could have tried their hands at winning one of 137 raffle baskets or even a $1,000 door prize.
Wiaterowski’s wife, Wendy, expressed sincere thanks to everyone who took part on Sunday.
“Everyone in the state of PA is praying for us,” Wendy said.
According to Wendy, things have been progressing along well for her husband. The mayor received a perfect match for a marrow donor, a young man from Germany, and since the donation was made, things have been going well.
“The doctors say he’s doing amazing. I update everyone on Facebook about how he’s been doing, and lately it’s been boring; we like boring,” she said with a laugh.
For his part, Wiaterowski is looking forward to May 13. So far, it’s been 72 days since the marrow transplant.
“The magic day is 100,” he said, indicating that May 13 end date. “If we get there okay, I lose a lot of restrictions; I won’t need to wear this mask anymore.”
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan