‘Kick It!’ campaign uplifts kid with cancer


ERIC FLUEGGE/Courtesy Photo

Eric Fluegge began the “Kick It Thomas!” campaign to support his 13-year-old cousin, Thomas Wichmann, who was diagnosed with brain cancer.


While many 13-year-olds have been spending their winters enjoying snow days and playing video games, Thomas Wichmann spent his in the hospital.

In December 2018, after a series of seizures, Wichmann discovered that he had a brain tumor the size of two Ping-Pong balls. When Wichmann underwent brain surgery, doctors quickly discovered the cancer was more advanced than they’d initially thought, and a biopsy confirmed that the cancer was stage four.

“Thomas is a regular 13-year-old kid,” said Wichmann’s cousin Eric Fluegge, a UNI senior majoring in marketing sales management. “He loves to play soccer, as he was selected to be on the Olympic development team in his home state of Minnesota this past summer. He loves to go fishing. He loves to hang out with his two brothers, Luca and Liam, and he loves music, as he plays cello and bass guitar.”

Fluegge is also the president of Pi Sigma Epsilon (PSE). He used a video on PSE’s social media profiles to launch the “Kick It Thomas!” campaign at UNI on Wednesday, Feb. 13, to support his cousin.

The campaign is simple: Anyone who wants to participate cuts out an outline of their foot from construction paper and writes an encouraging message to Wichmann on it. He added that participants should include their name and where they are from. Messages should be addressed to “Patient Thomas Wichmann” and sent to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105.

“We believe that through your help and support, we can encourage this kid to kick this tumor and stay positive through this incredibly tough time,” Fluegge said in his video.

The goal is for as many footprints as possible to plaster the walls of Wichmann’s St. Jude’s hospital room in Memphis, Tenn., where he had his surgery to remove the tumor and is now undergoing radiation treatment.

“Kick It Thomas!” was started by Wichmann and Fluegge’s cousin Elizabeth, who attends Luther College and involved her school’s Dance Marathon team in the campaign. When Elizabeth reached out to Fluegge wanting to involve UNI’s Dance Marathon, he decided he wanted to do more. He used his position in PSE to get the word out about the campaign.

“[PSE] is a co-ed fraternity, which is really cool because it means there’s a bunch of sororities and fraternities and other organizations that are also part of that,” Fluegge said. “So it was really easy to get a bunch of different people involved right away. It started to really catch on to those organizations, so that’s exciting to see that take place.”

Involvement in the “Kick It Thomas!” campaign has spread across the country, with participants from Illinois, Arizona, New Mexico and other states sending their footprints to Wichmann.

“We would love to expand this project as much as possible,” Fluegge said. “Any student organization can participate. It takes 10 minutes to do [. . .] It’s a really cool morale-boosting activity. Not only is it helpful for someone like Thomas, but us as people. We love feeling like we’ve helped someone else and made a big difference in someone’s life. We would love for the video to get liked and shared as often and as widely as possible. And if you have any connections with people in larger organizations, that would be great for you to share the video with them.”

Wichmann has already had about two weeks of radiation and will have eight weeks total by the end of treatment. He will then be able to return to Minnesota to start chemotherapy.

“It’s been tough on him, obviously. We’re just trying to keep his spirits high with this whole ‘Kick It Thomas!’ campaign,” Fluegge said. “When they found out about the prognosis, he kept it together pretty well from what I’ve heard, but it’s such as big thing to comprehend when you’re 13-years-old. When I hear stories about him handling the situation, it’s hard for me to decipher whether it’s he’s handling it really well or he doesn’t fully comprehend the situation.”

“Kick It Thomas!” will also be incorporated into Dance Marathon’s Big Event on Saturday, March 2. According to Fluegge, there will be a booth where dancers can make footprints to send to Wichmann.

“I think it’s a very simple way to make a difference,” Fluegge said. “Someone who’s 13 and young like that — I mean, he thinks the world of people who are in their 20s. So to get a bunch of letters personalized from those people — it just means the world to them. So our hope from that is that he stays encouraged through this time and can continue to be uplifted.”