Higgins on a mission to help cancer victim

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2006

Karen Higgins is on a mission, and she needs your help.

Higgins, a county elementary teacher and business owner, is gearing up for a 150-mile bike ride on Saturday, May 20.

Even though the fitness buff enjoys such physical challenges, this isn't just for fun.

It's for a young friend facing a health crisis.

&#8220I am doing this ride in honor of Samantha Leigh Davis. She's only five years old, and she has cancer,” Higgins said.

Davis, who was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in August 2004, is the daughter of Higgins' long-time friends, Gary and Wendy Davis of Deatsville.

Higgins wants to raise funds so children like Davis and others suffering from cancer can enjoy a fun-filled week at camp.

Imagine a place where a child battling cancer can come and be with other kids facing the same struggle; where such children can put aside the wigs and prosthetics for a week and simply enjoy being kids in the beautiful great outdoors – all at no cost to their families.

That sums up Camp Smile-A-Mile (SAM). Founded in 1985, it's the state's only year-round program designed for young cancer patients and their families.

Higgins hopes to raise enough money, $2,500 to be exact, to send ten young cancer patients to a weeklong camp.

&#8220The Ride of Love” will take Higgins and her fellow cyclists from Tuscaloosa to the camp, located on Lake Martin in Alexander City.

She is no stranger to such fitness-oriented fundraisers.

&#8220I have been on rides for Relay For Life and to raise funds for MS, lung disease and Parkinson's disease,” Higgins said.

She has already cycled 120 miles in a day for the Monroe County Relay For Life this year and thinks 150 miles won't be a problem.

&#8220I enjoy doing it.

God's given me excellent health and I need to use that gift to benefit others. It's all about the cause.”

On average, 500 children a year enjoy one of the eight camp sessions at Camp SAM, along with monthly programs offered for campers and their families.

The Ride of Love fundraiser was started in 2001 by Stephanie Wilkins, who has worked with the camp since 1998.

From a small start, the Ride of Love has gone on to raise more than $180,000 for Camp SAM.

&#8220I talked with Stephanie over the phone and it just broke my heart, when you think of what those kids go through. I decided to do it because of what and who it's for – to help kids like Samantha,” Higgins said.

Those who want to donate to Higgins' Ride of Love, can do so by making their checks payable to &#8220Camp Smile-A-Mile c/o Ride of Love.” Donations should be sent to Karen Higgins, 521 Greenville Bypass, Greenville, AL 36037. Donations may also be made online at the camp's Website, www.campsam.org (click on the Ride of Love tab).

&#8220I appreciate the support of the county and the community. Just get behind me, because I will be doing this ride for Samantha and the other kids,” Higgins said.