The Final RockRide
For 20 years, hundreds of motorcyclists have been riding for Samantha Thomas and thousands of childhood cancer heroes in the Ride 4 Our Cancer Kids (ROCKRIDE). “Hug your child every day, they are not as indestructible as they should be,” says Samantha’s dad, Bob Thomas.
Three days before their daughter’s third birthday, Bob and Lori Thomas from Corunna, ON, lost their daughter Samantha to Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.
In 2002, they took Sammy for a chest x-ray for what appeared to be a cold which had become worse. However, tests revealed a tumour in her chest had collapsed her left lung and was also pressing on her trachea. Doctors and her parents believed Sammy’s prognosis was good, and she was able to receive chemotherapy at the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre in London, ON. Overtime, Sammy was able to come home and continued biweekly visits as an out-patient. Yet, in December, a CT scan showed the tumour was aggressively growing again.
More intense chemo began, and doctors were recommending a bone marrow transplant. Fortunately, Sammy’s twin sister Victoria, and her five-year-old brother, Noah, were perfect matches. Just before Christmas, Noah was selected as the donor for his sister. Sammy’s recovery, which was going well, was filled with hours of beading, and watching Barney videos. As Sammy’s numbers improved, so did the odds she would be coming home.
Yet, once again, things took a turn for the worse as Sammy had developed RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and required an oxygen mask. Her O2 (oxygen) levels continued to decline and was put on a respirator. A week later, hero Samantha received her angel wings.
Looking back, Sammy had a challenging birth and appeared lifeless at first. When her first cry was heard, Bob recalls, “I thought she had passed before taking her first breath.” Within a couple days, both girls were completely healthy and happy -- and the next two and half years were amazing. Reflecting, Sammy’s parents realized they had not been “robbed of a lifetime with Samantha --but were gifted three extra years.” Recognizing the gift of Sammy’s life extension, Bob and Lori were motivated to raise funds for cancer research. In 2004, the first Ride 4 Our Cancer Kids was held and raised more than $13,000. The following year the event raised over $26,000.
In its final year, a record-breaking $53,500 was raised at R.O.C.K. 2023, bringing our 20 year fundraising total to an amazing $624,300.
Rock Ride has come to an end, but you can still donate at www.rockride.com to support childhood cancer research - as Bob says, ''kids shouldn't need chemo.''