Fate was not kind to the Heidrun and Gerd Kohnerts family. Two of their daughters were diagnosed with cancer at a young age. Both died. Instead of retiring, the Kohnerts chose a different path. In 1982 they founded the “Aid for Children with Cancer” to improve the living, care and therapy conditions for children and young people with cancer and to cushion deficits in the health system.
They started small. At “Gut Kaps” they pressed apple juice from the apples they had collected and then offered it for sale. Friends and neighbors joined the newly founded initiative, the first income was in the form of toys and colorful bed linen for the “Intern 3” ward of the Dr. invested by Hauner Children’s Hospital in Munich. At that time, the walls in the clinic were still white and drab, and there was no friendly or even child-friendly equipment.
The willingness of the population to donate and numerous campaigns have allowed the financial possibilities of the Ebersberg Children’s Cancer Aid to increase steadily, as the association explains in a press release. Extensive purchases could soon be made. Urgently needed medical devices such as infusomats, which ensure the exact dosing of medication. At that time, only four dosing pumps were formally approved for Department Internal 3, while 20 small patients were being treated as inpatients. Thanks to the seven million euros that the club has now collected, that is a thing of the past.
Gustl Bayrhammer, Thomas Gottschalk and Garri Kasparow
Many celebrities have supported the club over the years. There were summer parties with TV presenter Carolin Reiber, actor Thomas Ohrner and singer Dieter-Thomas Heck. At the beginning of the 1990s, Thomas Gottschalk paralyzed the entire Ebersberg Marienplatz twice in a row. Annual bazaars in the town hall with homemade things and cakes followed. Here, too, many celebrities helped draw the raffle prizes as “lucky fairy”, such as Fritz Egner, Gustl Bayrhammer or Ricco Groß. Even chess legend Garry Kasparow came to Ebersberg and played simultaneously against 25 highest bidders at one event.
Another milestone was reached in November 1990 together with another parents’ initiative: the inauguration of the day clinic in the above-mentioned hospital. Here children are treated on an outpatient basis or come for follow-up care without having to come into contact with new patients or recidivists, which would represent an additional psychological burden.
Even then, the Ebersberg Children’s Cancer Aid, which has borne its current name since 2001, had to pay for additional staff in order to curb the nursing shortage. Staff is still an issue. Especially during the long period of lockdown, it was important for the children and their families to have enough educators, nurses, doctors and psychologically well-trained staff around them.
The association sees its main task in the unbureaucratic support of families. It is not uncommon for parents to lose their jobs and get into financial difficulties as a result of their child’s illness. Then therapy costs, short allowances for socially disadvantaged children or costs for a hair transplant are covered. For example, when no more hair grows back after a brain tumor.
In February 2020, after more than 38 years as second board member and treasurer, Gerd Kohnert no longer stood for election. His wife Heidrun led the association from 1982 to 2001 as first chairman, after which she handed over the scepter to her then neighbor Helga Bogensperger. For more than 18 years she was the face of the Ebersberg Children’s Cancer Aid before she died of cancer herself in April 2019 at the age of 58.
To this day, the club’s core team of seven is made up of friends and neighbors from the Kohnert and Bogensperger families. It has set itself the task of continuing the Ebersberg Children’s Cancer Aid in their spirit. This is also only possible with the support of the citizens, but the willingness and commitment of many volunteers have proven several times over the past four decades that there are a wide variety of ways to get involved, as the association reports. The new chairman, Stefan Freytag, and his team are proud of the cooperation with the supporters.
The association emphasizes that after 40 years a lot has changed for the better. However, the health system is still not sufficiently prepared for children with cancer. That’s why it’s so important to keep going.
More information at www.kinderkrebshilfe-ebersberg.de.