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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Cancer patient and his mother recieve car from charity

Ricky Gaines knew his mom was in for a surprise Thursday. But the 19-year-old cancer patient didn't expect a car.

"I'm just happy," he said as he stood outside the UF Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute, wiping tears away from his eyes.

On Thursday, Gaines and his mother, Deborah, received a white 2001 Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan from Charity Cars, a national nonprofit organization that gives cars to those in need.

Gaines, of Panama City, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in his left leg in October.

The next month, he and his mother started driving the two and a half hours every other week to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola for chemotherapy.

The only problem was they didn't have a car.

Gaines' doctor in Gainesville, Dr. Parker Gibbs, said getting to chemotherapy and other appointments on time is critical to Gaines' survival.

Without the car, Gaines and his mom had trouble staying on schedule. Deborah Gaines said she would have to ask friends to drive them there and back, and she had to skip Ricky's surgery in Gainesville last month because they didn't have a ride.

They rescheduled the surgery for Feb. 6, and they were back in Gainesville on Thursday for a follow-up appointment, which is when Charity Cars surprised them with the new car.

Two representatives from Charity Cars joined Candace McIver, the Sacred Heart Hospital nurse who told the company about the Gaines family, in the Shands parking lot as she waited for Deborah and Ricky.

McIver, of Pensacola, met Deborah Gaines at Sacred Heart Hospital when they were both pacing the halls of the pediatric oncology unit.

McIver's son, Nic, has bone cancer in his arm, and the two boys entertain each other during chemotherapy sessions.

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"I tell him, 'Chemo sucks,'" Nic said in the parking lot.

As she flipped through People magazine one day, McIver noticed a story about a man who donated his car for a similar cause. She contacted him, and he told her about Charity Cars.

Within an hour of e-mailing the company, McIver got a call from representatives saying they would give Deborah and Ricky Gaines a car.

"They're such an amazing family, and they were just having such difficulty," McIver said.

Gaines and McIver also see the same orthopaedic surgeon at Shands, Dr. Parker Gibbs, so McIver let him in on the secret.

Gibbs led Deborah and Ricky Gaines to the parking lot where their new car was waiting.

"I told them that the X-ray machine upstairs wasn't working so well, and we had to go downstairs and outside to a portable X-ray area," he said later that day. "And they bought it, so I must be a better liar than I thought."

As Ricky Gaines limped out of the entrance on crutches with his mom at his side, a Charity Car spokeswoman, Rose Hill, stood in front of the new car and told Deborah Gaines about McIver's e-mail.

"Oh my gosh," Gaines kept saying during Hill's speech. "Oh, that's nice. Oh my God. Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you so much."

After all the hugs had been given out and more tears had been shed, Deborah Gaines took a nice long look at her new car.

"This is so nice," she said. "It's gonna feel good to ride home in this."

But she said her hands were shaking so much from the excitement that she couldn't park it.

Ricky Gaines said he's looking forward to "laying in the back seat and sleeping on the way to chemo."

And the best part: "It's got a DVD player!" Nic shouted.

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