Ridgeland Recreation and Parks will host a fall bike ride this year on Oct. 9 with the purpose of raising funds for the Children’s Mississippi Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.
Rachel Collier, Ridgeland’s Sponsorships and Marketing Coordinator, said the city has never done a bike ride as a fundraiser, but they knew they wanted their donation to be focused on one purpose. They chose the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders to be the beneficiary of Cycle Out Kids Cancer because of the renovation project the hospital has in the works. The hospital’s renovation will include additional exam rooms, a larger transfusion room, and updating the center’s pharmacy.
“We wanted to do one project that we felt like we could make a difference,” Collier said.
Peggy McIntosh was once a parent that spent endless hours inside the walls of the hospital while her son, Josh, was being treated for a brain tumor at age 13 for nearly a year. Josh has been in remission for three and a half years, but to McIntosh the impact the hospital made on her family is still fresh in her mind.
“Life ended as we knew it,” McIntosh said. “His doctor said he was the sickest child she had ever taken care of. It was really tough because he was so so sick.”
Despite her son’s cancer and the trials that come through illness, McIntosh still said the experience was a blessing because of the hospital and the people in it. She said Children’s of Mississippi made all the difference because, while St. Jude is a wonderful hospital, it would have caused her to lose her home, job, and community to move her son to be treated in that hospital. Being able to stay at her home in Madison, allowed Josh to keep his friends, school and support while going through treatment.
“We would’ve had to move to Tennessee and start over as a sick kid not knowing anybody,” McIntosh said. “[Children’s of Mississippi] is right here and the only place we have in Mississippi for sick kids, and it is an amazing place.”
She said although Josh has now been in remission for several years, everyone at the hospital still knows him and loves him. They keep up with the nurses that cared for him, even attending weddings and baby showers for those nurses. McIntosh said it is like she now has eight daughters.
“It’s like this is our great big huge extended family,” McIntosh said. “They are just a part of our lives. They are an awesome group of nurses.”
She pointed out that the nurses and staff aren’t just this caring for Josh, but every child who they have treated. She said there is so much love in the hospital and everyone is special and matters to them.
“They have had a million kids as patients, and they still remember my son,” McIntosh said. “He’s their kid too as they’ve invested so much of their time and their lives and their love into him. They’ve worked so hard to make things better through such a tragic diagnosis. Anything that will help them be able to do that job better and get better facilities is important.”
McIntosh said this Cycle Out Kids Cancer bike ride is one of these things that will make a difference for the hospital, the staff and the patients.
“By participating, you can make a huge difference for a child that may not have anything else left,” McIntosh said.
Ryan Mains, Development Liaison for Children’s of Mississippi, said the renovations will provide a more comfortable space for patients and their families. The upgrades to the pharmacy will create a space for an on-site pharmacist as well as allow for more clinical trials.
“Throughout the renovation planning process, improving the patient and family experience has been a primary goal,” Mains said.
The entire project is estimated to cost $2.5 million. Collier said the goal is to have 100 participants and raise $5,000 to help with the cost of the renovations. She said she would encourage people to participate because it is for a good cause and, for avid cyclists, it is one of the last rides of the season. While the spring ride takes place along the reservoir, this ride will take place at the Renaissance at Colony Park and explore the West side of Ridgeland.
“It gives the community one more opportunity to enjoy a long, scenic ride, but the main reason to do the ride is to support this one specific fundraising opportunity,” Collier said.
The Children’s of Mississippi Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders is the only center for pediatric care in Mississippi and is one of the nation’s largest clinics for children with sickle cell.
“Raising funds to improve the center will help thousands of children from across the state who come to Children’s of Mississippi for treatment,” Mains said. “Participating in the inaugural Cycle Out Kids Cancer is a fun and family-friendly way to support this renovation effort.”
To find out more and sign up for the bike ride, visit this website: https://runsignup.com/Race/MS/Ridgeland/CycleOutKidsCancer.