Ride for Our Cancer Kids expands this year

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The long-running Ride for Our Cancer Kids (ROCK) is back this summer, but in a different form that allows for participation across the county and between vehicle types.

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Paul Morden

Publication date:

June 11, 2021 • 40 minutes ago • 2 minutes read • Join the conversation Bob Thomas, founder of Ride for Our Cancer Kids, met members of the Lambton Wanderers cycling club next to the Blue Water Bridge this week. This year’s fundraiser for Childhood Cancer Canada is redesigned and will take place on routes across Ontario in June and July. Photo by Paul Morden / The Observer

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The long-running Ride for Our Cancer Kids (ROCK) is back this summer, but in a different form that allows for participation across the county and between vehicle types.

Bob and Lori Thomas, former residents of the Sarnia region, started the ride in 2004 after the death of their daughter, Samantha, just days before her third birthday and after a nine-month battle with cancer.

They started motorcycle rides to raise money for childhood cancer research, totaling more than $500,000 over the years.

The rides continued in Sarnia for 12 years until the family moved to Niagara Falls in 2015 after Thomas took a job there.

After hosting four annual rides in Niagara Falls, in 2019 the pair decided to fulfill a promise to bring the event back to Lambton County that year, but the 2020 version was not held due to the pandemic.

This year, the couple started planning early and came up with a new format to keep the fundraiser going.

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The one-day motorcycle tour has evolved into an “all vehicles welcome” self-guided tours of regions of the province they call the Alphabet ROCK Tour.

“We’re doing a sort of scavenger hunt,” Bob Thomas said.

There are 26 day trips in June and July in three regions of the province. One includes Sarnia to Kincardine and London. Another is Hamilton, Niagara, Fort Erie and the third in northern Ontario.

Thomas said each region has 26 locations where participants can take a selfie photo and upload it for a ballot for a top prize of $1,000 in gasoline cards.

Participants also receive a ballot for every $25 in pledges.

“We just won $13,000” already raised this week, Thomas said. This year’s goal is $30,000.

“It’s going very well,” he said.

Details about the event can be found online at www.rockride.com.

Thomas said they will continue to organize fundraisers in honor and memory of Samantha.

“Some years when I get tired and think, this is a lot of work, or we lose a big sponsor, I just pull out one of those videos of her,” he said. “She never gave up — she kept going — so I’ll keep going for as long as I can.”

The money raised during the events will go to Childhood Cancer Canada and will benefit the 17 children’s hospitals across the country, Thomas said.

“Cyclists have been infamous for their fundraisers for years,” he said. “Everyone likes going for a ride together.”

If they can contribute a few bucks and ride with “a few hundred friends and all that money goes to charity, that’s even better,” Thomas said.

A mass ride is not possible this year due to the pandemic, so it was decided to extend the fundraiser beyond the motorcycles this year.

“You don’t have to be a motorcyclist,” Thomas said.

Participants can set out on one of the routes with a pick-up or family car.

The draws for the prizes are on July 31.


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