Mike Polk knows the heartache of having a child who suffers from a terminal illness. He also knows the frustration of jetting cross-country on a shoe-string budget in search of a cure -- or a few precious minutes.
In August 1990, Mr. Polk received an 8 a.m. phone call from his wife, Della. She told him to board a plane immediately for Lexington, Ky., where their 9-year-old son, Chris, was losing his fight with cancer.
Mr. Polk arrived at 3 p.m. and was at the hospital 30 minutes later. At 5 p.m., Chris slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness.
"Those were the most important 90 minutes of my life," said Mr. Polk. "Without the financial support of my friends and family, I might have missed that time."
Two years later, Mr. Polk hopes Roads to Recovery -- the organization he founded after his son's death -- will help families that find themselves in similar situations.
Roads to Recovery is a non-profit volunteer organization that provides transportation, lodging and money to pay the expenses of critically ill patients and their families who need to travel to out-of-town medical facilities.
On Sept. 26, the organization will hold its first major fund-raiser, a "City Slickers Ball" set for the Butler Aviation Hangar at Baltimore-Washington International Airport from 7 to 11 p.m.
The ball will be a casual evening of dancing and dining with a country-western theme.
"The furthest thing from these families' minds is transportation. They don't know their way around. It's so much of a hassle. I said to myself, 'There has to be a better way,' " Mr. Polk said.
The organization takes referrals from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, then works with the family's social worker to customize its service package. Roads to Recovery has spent over $2,000 since April, assisting three families from Fitzgerald, Ga., Huntingdon, W.Va., and Sanford, Maine.
For seed money, the Polks used the $1,700 remaining in Chris' trust fund, which was supplemented by private donations and corporate grants. Eighteen months later, however, the group has only $4,000 left in its treasury.
To accommodate referrals from the University of Maryland Medical System and to expand its service to include chronically ill adults, as well as cardiac and AIDS patients, Roads to Recovery decided to organize a fund-raiser, which they hope will raise $15,000.
dream [of starting Roads to Recovery] has already become a reality," he said. "I know it will grow because it comes straight from my heart, but I also need the support of the community."
Butler Aviation is just one area corporation that has responded to Roads to Recovery's pleas for help.
"It is Butler's nature to be philanthropic," said Ginny Trostle, a spokeswoman for the company and a committee member for the City Slickers Ball. "Mike Polk approached us to see if we were willing to help out. The organization was looking for a place to hold the event and we thought it was a worthwhile cause."
Ms. Trostle said the committee is still looking to raise sponsorships, sell tickets and attract volunteers.
A cowboy auction, gambling tables and dance instruction will be available along with the live western band, Pryzm, and two DJs. There will also be a grand prize drawing for a trip to Montana.
For tickets, contact Mike Polk at 945-6761 or Sandy Pagnotti at 356-4020.