What could possibly motivate 4 old guys averaging 70 years of age to travel 2400 miles by bicycle? To ride from Sun City Arizona to Sun City Center Florida in the early morning chills of the panhandle of Texas to the steaming afternoon heat in Louisiana? No matter how much they trained, they’ll wake with aches and pains, bumps and bruises yet never once question why they did it? They will endure 60 nights of strange motel rooms, different cities and towns and almost assuredly beds that have seen one too many a traveler.
Such a tough question with such a somber, sad answer. Nothing can be more compelling than this story. It’s the face of an 8-year-old young girl, one filled with life ready to be and do so much; then in the tragic blink of an eye, she tells mom her knee hurts. A quick trip to the doctor and the gripping news she has osteosarcoma cancer. That didn’t stop Sammy Rotman, she spent the next two and half years trying to cram a lifetime into those young and short-lived years.
She battled all the way, and she faced it like a trooper. She inspired people around her and brought out the best in people. When she finally left us, her grandparents saw an opportunity to make something good from something so horribly wrong. Mike and Lois Libenson live in Sun City Florida. They began planning a fund-raiser for pediatric cancer. Unlike most of us oldsters who see bake sales and raffles as the chance to do something to raise a couple of bucks, they dreamed much bigger. Much like Sammy lived, they wanted to live large and make a real difference.
Plans began two years ago, and we are within a week of the kickoff off this most magnificent journey. Joining Mike on this trip is John Bear, Mike Brown and Adolf Lux. Lois will be driving the support van and hauling the medical supplies (she took EMT training to be properly prepared) and spare bike parts for the inevitable breakdowns. They know this won’t be easy, but they also know it will be nowhere near as tough as what Sammy endured.
They arrive from our sister city on the east coast on February 28. On Tuesday March 1 they have a full schedule of events. The one open to the public will be at 7 pm that night when they appear at the Next Gen club meeting. It will be held at the new Fairway Rec Center in the Arizona Room; there will be cheese and veggie platters along with cake and coffee. The meet and greet party is being hosted by the Next Gen’ers with finacial support from the Sun City 50th anniversary committee. It will be a great opportunity to join us, no matter what your age, just remember to bring your checkbook, a couple of dollars to drop in the jar or even your loose change will be much appreciated.
The real fun will be the next morning. We are inviting all Sun City residents to give them a proper Sun City send off. For those really adventurous folks, dust of your old no speed Schwinn, put some air in the tires and come on down to the Sundial rec center. We’ll be there at 7:30 am with coffee, juice and lots of sweets to jump-start you with some carbs and calories you can peddle away as we ride them to the border of Sun City. Seriously, we want anyone interested in joining us to feel free to come to this event. Clearly this ride/fund-raiser is bigger than Sun City.
We will be leaving the Sundial parking lot at 8:30 am. Those of you into biking may want to join them as they head to Phoenix Children’s Hospital via the bike trails and then on to Tempe to spend the night. One of the aspects of the trip that makes it so exciting is they will be doing numerous stops like this along the way, trying to bring some joy and hope into the hearts of the children battling to overcome cancer. They have already raised enough money to cover all costs and money raised along the way will go to pediatric cancer.
Let me just conclude by saying i have been blessed to be invited to be part of this committee to help with the SammyRides kickoff in Sun City. It has been a joy to work with people willing to roll up their sleeves and get it done. We know Sammy has left us, but while she may be gone, she is riding every mile of this route with her grandparents and the rest of the crew. More importantly, she left us with that infectious smile we see here , and the simple fact we all need to lighten up, smile and enjoy life just a touch more than we do.
Thanks Sammy, pretty impressive when you can teach old dogs new tricks, even after you are gone. I’m hoping all of you in the West Valley can join us. If you can, don’t be shy about making a donation and if you can’t, the SammyRides website will gladly take your money. Let’s face it, is there anything more unfair, more wrong than a youngster facing the horrors of cancer?