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The road to a cure on two wheels


When Cade was diagnosed with cancer, an entire town rallied to fundraise for St. Jude, one motorcycle at a time.


On Sept. 7, 2018, Cade, a patient of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, climbed on the back of his mom’s black Can-Am Spyder and held on for the ride. A few days before, the 18-year-old had gotten clear scans, so no matter how quickly his mom and dad rode on their respective motorcycles, they were all going to be coasting on good news.

Cade, his parents and the other members of Team Cade and the Iron Mountain Riders, along with nearly 100 motorcycle riders from the Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA), set out from Bristol, Va., to begin their two-day, 535-mile trek. Each year, the GWRRA travels to Memphis, Tenn., where St. Jude is located, to deliver funds raised from the previous year.

The GWRRA raised $160,000 this year — and $104,522 of that was from Team Cade and the Iron Mountain Riders. The donation was his family’s way of saying ‘thank you.’

When Cade came to St. Jude, his odds of surviving his diagnosis were 10% — he shouldn’t be on this bike. But Cade is still riding, and the word “gratitude” doesn’t even begin to describe how his parents feel about it.

St. Jude patient Cade with his mom and dad

St. Jude patient Cade with his mom and dad

Cade's rough road

Something happened to Cade’s vision during summer camp in 2010.

“We swam all the time,” said Cade. “I would go underwater and open my eyes. Well, one day, my eyes started looking funny. I could see white around everything.”

Cade also had bad headaches and nausea.

Cade’s pediatrician believed he had a viral infection, and that the problem with his eyes might be from chlorine. 

“But it just got worse and worse,” remembered Cade, and finally, at a hospital near his home in Virginia, a CT scan revealed a tumor in the 10-year-old’s brain.

“As awful as it sounds, it was kind of a relief that we finally knew what it was, because Cade had been so sick,” said Jolene, Cade’s mom.

That sense of relief didn’t last long. On Aug. 31, 2010, Cade underwent surgery at a hospital in Virginia to remove the tumor. Cade had a rare brain cancer: an atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor. The pathologist gave the family three hospital options for his treatment.

I asked him, ‘If this was your child, where would you take him?’ And the pathologist said, ‘Well, St. Jude is the teacher, and the other two places doing this protocol are the students, so I would take him to the teacher.’”

Jolene, St. Jude patient Cade's mom

A group of more than 100 riders have been making the trip from Bristol, Va. to Memphis, Tenn. to raise funds for St. Jude.

A group of more than 100 riders make the trip from Bristol, Va., to Memphis, Tenn. each year.

At St. Jude, Cade underwent surgery to remove a second tumor, 31 radiation treatments to his brain and spine and four intense rounds of high-dose chemotherapy.

“They told us Cade had a 10% chance of survival,” said Jolene.

Despite the long shot at the time, Cade’s family describes St. Jude as wonderful.

“If you have to get a needle, they’ll hold your hand, and they’ll just talk to you to get you through it,” said Cade.

“I believe that God works through the doctors and nurses. The people at St. Jude make it so wonderful,” said Jolene. “Everyone is just so nice.”

Participants of Team Kade and other groups who participated in the motorcycle fundraiser presenting a check on the campus of St. Jude

Every dollar makes a difference

Chilhowie, Va., has a population of fewer than 1,800 residents, which makes its $104,522 fundraising total for Team Cade even more impressive. Jolene and Jim, Cade’s dad, who work in corrections and trucking respectively, half-jokingly call raising money for St. Jude through Team Cade their third full-time job.

“We hold golf tournaments, quilt sales and bingo games,” said Jolene. “We have a lady who makes the best pumpkin rolls for us, and those raise $4,000 every year.”

Team Cade holds an annual Sweetheart Banquet around Valentine’s Day. “It’s formal,” said Jolene. “Well, it’s not dressy, dressy, but we have it catered.”

The whole town turns out.

“People fall in love with Cade’s testimony, especially people who’ve gone through cancer treatment or know someone who has,” said Jolene. “Cade is such a sweet young man to everyone, and he had an immense amount of treatment.”

It astounds her still.

Supporters on the campus of St. Jude

We were OK if we had to lose everything to save our boy, but we didn’t have to. We knew that whatever insurance wouldn’t cover, St. Jude would, and that was a big thing. Housing was free, and they gave us grocery money. I mean, St. Jude makes everything so much easier.


And St. Jude exists because of its donors.

“We have people who give to us and say, ‘We don’t have a lot. We can’t give a lot,’ and I tell them, ‘Every dollar, every penny counts,’” said Jolene.

Since 2011, Team Cade has raised $316,143 and this year the GWRRA passed the $2 million mark, an incredible milestone to continue the mission of St. Jude: Finding cures. Saving children.®


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