Monday, February 9, 2009

Super girl had heart of kryptonite

Nicole Overman was a mild-mannered sixth-grader at Lincoln Park Elementary School in the Wilson School District.
OK, maybe she was a bit of a tomboy, fond of camouflage clothing, but otherwise she was mild-mannered.
The characters that she studied and sketched, however, were the larger- than-life superheroes of comic-book fame.
Nikki’s favorite was the Flash.
She got so good at drawing superhero figures in her notebooks that she started creating characters of her own.
She would share her drawings with her classmates and they regis-tered their approval.
Next to each sketch of a newly created superhero, Nikki would write a brief synopsis of how they acquired their super powers. The synopsis included a list of their strengths and the one thing, like Superman’s kryptonite, that could sap their powers and lead to their demise.
A sketch of Nikki would include details of how she got her super drawing powers. It would list among her strengths her love for her classmates and community and how her bright and charming personal-ity could win over the most dastardly bully.
But her own heart would be her kryptonite.
Nikki had always had a heart murmur. Since birth, her doctors told her parents, David and Cathy Overman of Lincoln Park, that it was nothing to worry about. Then the murmur got louder and her doctor recommended that she have surgery.
But surgeons at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found two holes in Nikki’s heart.
They performed surgery to close the holes and her prognosis was good when on Jan. 9 she suffered convulsions and slipped into a coma.
Nikki died Jan. 10 of complications.
Her family, classmates and school staff were devastated.
“The whole community was affected,” said Lincoln Park Principal Dina G. Wert.
In memory of Nikki, her classmates and friends put on a Jump Rope-a-Thon for the American Heart Association. An event that usually raises $5,000 raised $15,000 in Nikki’s name.
Still, there was something missing at Lincoln Park Elementary.
“I knew I had to get the students involved in something physical that would help them remember Nikki,” Wert said.
The students and staff hadn’t yet come to grips with their loss.
Taking a page from Nikki’s life, Wert obtained some of Nikki’s sketches from her parents. Robert Chappel, an art teacher at Wilson High School in Reading, grabbed three of his brightest students and they met with the sixth-graders.
Seniors Joe Palumbo and Ben Sweeney, both 18, and junior Matt Levy, 17, interviewed the sixth-graders and came up with a plan.
They would create a circle of superhero friends.
The three high school artists drew a 20-foot circle in the middle of Lincoln Park Elementary’s playground and began sketching outlines of the superheroes.
Wert took money collected by Nikki’s classmates for a memorial fund and used some of it to buy paint at a store in Spring Township.
Over a week, Palumbo, Sweeney and Levy sketched outlines of su-perheroes, then guided the sixth-graders as they painted inside the lines.
At first, one or two curious students would watch the painters from a window inside the school that overlooked the playground. A day later, a few teachers had stopped to talk near the window.
By midweek, students and teachers would gather at the window to marvel at the comic-book characters coming to life on the macadam of the school playground.
After the circle of friends was completed, the students continued to work even harder on a character taking shape in the center of the cir-cle. From the window no one could make out the figure.
There was the Flash, the Hulk and Superman, but who was that in the middle — and why was the new character twice as big as the others?
On Tuesday, the mystery was solved as Nikki’s parents pulled back a parachute to officially unveil the mural.
Dressed in a gold, wind-swept cape and powder-blue camouflage pants, it’s not a bird or a plane.
It’s Super Nikki.

Once chaired through the market place, she fights on

The first thing Morgantown native Janet Oberholtzer wants to do when she gets home is hug her sons.
Then she wants to hug everyone else in town.
For six months Janet and Jerry Oberholtzer and their three sons, Joshua, 15, Joseph, 14, and Jonathan, 11, have been seeing the country in their RV.
The former owners of Meadow Gardens, a garden center, they ac-cepted a developer’s generous offer to buy their prime real estate on Main Street in the village.
“It’s not something we could plan for, but we’re fortunate that it hap-pened,” Janet said.
Jerry, a Myerstown native, said having run their own business since 1992, they hadn’t had a lot of time to spend together as a family.
“We decided to take a couple months off and see the country and be a family again,” he said.
They bought a motor home and took off for points unknown, with Janet continuing to home school the boys as she has for the past four years.
“We both love the sun and warm weather and the water so being from Pennsylvania that means heading south,” Janet said. “We figured we’d go someplace, stay a week and then move on.
That plan went out the window after their first stop.
“We stayed in Key West for 10 days,” Janet said. “We fell in love with the islands driving out. The boys went snorkeling. It was fantastic.”
Then, after other stops in Florida and Louisiana, the Oberholtzers spent a month in Texas.
They saw the Alamo in San Antonio and visited Austin, Corpus Christi and Padre Island on the Gulf of Mexico.
Then, at the request of Jonathan, the family spent a week on a dude ranch. They were brown as berries from riding the prairie and still singin’ the cattle call when they headed still farther west.
After taking in the scenery for a couple of months, the Oberholtzers decided it was time to give back.
They met up with other volunteers from the Salvation Army and Mennonite Disaster Services who were cleaning up after the wildfire that struck southern California last summer.
Jerry and the boys helped with the cleanup, and Janet cooked for the volunteers for three weeks.
Aglow with the good feeling of doing hard work for a good cause, the Oberholtzers bundled themselves into the RV and headed north.
  
Jerry swerved sharply left and then it was lights out for Janet.
Local newspaper reports say six semis were involved in a chain-reaction collision just ahead of them. The RV didn’t clear the left back end of the last trailer.
Everything in the 39-foot RV was thrown forward, including the Oberholtzers.
There is a stairwell just in front of the passenger’s seat. Janet was thrown down in the stairwell and pinned between the back of the trac-tor-trailer and the twisted wreckage of the RV.
“Jerry says I asked if the boys were OK and then I kind of drifted off,” Janet said from her hospital bed in the John Mayo Newhall Trauma and Rehabilitation Center in Santa Clara, Calif.
Jerry and the boys were uninjured, and after 10 days in a hotel, the boys flew home with their grandparents while Janet recuperated. Jerry has been staying in the home of a hospital volunteer.
Janet has been operated on several times over the past six weeks and still can’t put weight on her legs.
But she’s had enough of the road and six weeks of hospital food and she’s coming home tonight.
“I came close to losing my life and I didn’t, and I came close to losing my leg and didn’t and I’m still here to see my boys grow up,” Janet said. “I just want to get back home and reconnect.”
And tonight, around 8, Janet will get her chance.
Keep it under your hat, but as the wheelchair van carrying Janet ar-rives in town around 8, her friends plan to line Main Street with as many Morgantowners as they can muster.
Meet me at the red light.