Bikers hit the road to help children with brain tumors

On Sunday morning, Carter Fitzsimmons was just a kid lucky enough to take a spin in a motorcycle sidecar on a sunny day.

The days haven’t always been so bright.

As an infant, he posed an unsettling mystery. While his twin brother, Grant, was growing normally into a marble-eyed cherub, Carter’s neck was still floppy. His eyes didn’t track things the way his brother’s did.

A family friend who worked in special education told his mother, Heather Thompson of Overland Park, something wasn’t right.

First there was a visit to an ophthalmologist. Then more doctors. A brain scan showed something wrong — a benign tumor in the brain.

That launched a year of chemotherapy, with all the agony and anguish such treatment can bring.

“You expect to have everything else but a brain tumor,” Thompson said.

Now, though, Carter is every bit as normal as his twin brother. His growth has been stunted by the treatments and the inoperable tumor. But he’s as sharp as any 11-year-old. And, said big sister Erin Shoemake, “more creative.”

And he was among scores of people who rallied for the Ride for Kids in Overland Park, raising money for the

Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation


About 150 motorcyclists took a leisurely 46-mile ride from Johnson County Community College in an effort expected to raise between $40,000 and $50,000.

Sunday’s event marked the ninth year the event has taken place in the Kansas City area, the sixth year at the community college.

Carter is among the lucky ones. Brain tumors represent the deadliest form of childhood cancer. The survival rate is 20 percent. On average, 11 children a day in the United States are diagnosed with brain tumors.

Money raised by events like Ride for Kids goes to research grants, aid in early detection — headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures and otherwise unexplained vision or hearing problems can sometimes be signs — family support services and college scholarships for brain tumor survivors.