OCEAN CITY — A year ago, while county officials from around Maryland gathered for their annual beachside conference, Gov. Larry Hogan was in a Baltimore hospital undergoing his first round of chemotherapy.
This year, Hogan is everywhere at the Maryland Association of Counties convention — raising funds, shaking hands, basking in the glow of his popularity.
But Hogan started his day Friday with a stop that brought back vivid memories of his fight against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He visited the Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation's House by the Sea, which offers free lodging at the beach resort to families dealing with the serious illness of a child.
The governor, accompanied by his wife, Yumi, toured the foundation's condos, designed to offer sick kids a break from hospitals and treatments, a choice of adventures and a sense of being normal again.
"There's a lot of organizations that help kids with cancer, but I love this one," Hogan said as he walked through the organization's building with CEO Brian Morrison and chief operating officer Mary Anne Davis.
Hogan beamed as he reunited with a special friend from his stays at the University of Maryland Hospital when he was undergoing treatment.
Madison Friz, 16, of Woodbine told the governor she rescheduled a chemotherapy session for her leukemia just so she could be there to see him again.
"I'm getting my hair back," Madison told Hogan.
"I am, too," Hogan replied.
The two exchanged updates on their medical conditions — Hogan now "100 percent cancer-free" and Madison facing 13 more monthly treatments.
"It's better than once or twice a week," she told the governor.
Madison told a reporter that she got to know Hogan when they were undergoing chemotherapy.
"We both put on smiles and went our separate ways and threw up," she said.
Madison was loving her stay with her family at Believe in Tomorrow. She said she had just returned from surfing lessons in the morning as part of a program she called "incredible."
"There aren't even words to describe how awesome it is," she said.
Hogan said Madison is awesome, too.
"She's an incredibly bright young lady," he said. "So tough."
The governor met Parker Biggs of Clarksburg, who has spent 31/2 of his 5 years fighting leukemia. Parker was enjoying a vacation with his parents and two brothers.
Hogan, the first lady and the five family members all donned the orange sunglasses the foundation was distributing and mugged for the cameras. The governor and Parker's parents, Jennifer and Brian Biggs, exchanged chemo war stories.
"Every time I went to the hospital, I went to see the kids in the pediatrics ward," Hogan said. "They inspired me."
Believe in Tomorrow, based in Baltimore and originally known as the Grant-a-Wish Foundation, was founded by Morrison 34 years ago. It has grown to include housing in Baltimore and at Deep Creek Lake, as well as two locations in Ocean City and one in Fenwick Island, Del.
Davis said the foundation plans yet another house in a property it recently acquired on 65th Street in Ocean City and a second "mountain respite" house at Deep Creek's Wisp Mountain. The group is funded by private donations and does not receive government grants, officials said.
Hogan, who held a fundraiser at the Clarion Hotel on Wednesday, said he took part in about a dozen events that day and was planning eight or nine Friday. They included a walk along the boardwalk, lunch at the venerable Dough Roller restaurant and the crab feast traditionally held on Maryland Association of Counties convention's closing night.
On Saturday morning, the governor was scheduled to deliver the conference's closing speech. Hogan said he was "making up for lost time" after missing the first conference of his term.
"It's just great to be here this year and be healthy and strong," he said.