Ryder Ewing and Emily Roach, both 11, live a mile apart near Walton High School. Ryder has suffered from a brain tumor since she was a toddler. Emily doesn’t have cancer but is active in the Rally Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money for childhood cancer research and supports kids undergoing treatment.
The girls, along with Tori Svenson, 8, of Columbus, were honored at Wednesday night’s Atlanta Braves game.
At 13 months, Ryder started losing weight and started holding onto things when walking, not developing the same way as her twin sister, MacKenzie. Doctors then diagnosed her tumor, astrocytoma.
After surgery and an induced coma, Ryder went through chemotherapy. She was nourished through a feeding tube for six years.
Ryder had to learn to walk and speak again and regain everything she learned before her coma. She is now enrolled at Dodgen Middle School and will be in sixth grade there with MacKenzie.
“Ryder is an amazing young lady who has really fought a very difficult brain tumor and went through an incredible regiment of treatment,” said east Cobb resident Dean Crowe, founder of the Rally Foundation. “She is a super sweet, smart girl. Her family has the Ryder 5K, which funds research for Ryder’s type of brain tumor.”
Ryder’s mom said foundation officials asked if Ryder wanted to be a “Rally kid.”
“Rally is so important to us and the Rally kids because the greater cause is to raise money for research, but also for the kids who are fighting to stay alive on a daily basis. At a very young age, they are very aware they are different and Rally gives them something else, like the Braves game.”
Ryder said she was excited to attend Wednesday’s Braves’ game with other Rally kids. She, Emily and Tori got to meet Brian McCann, a six-time All-Star catcher with the Braves. McCann and his wife, Ashley, have been Rally supporters since 2008.
“I like Rally because you can see other people who have gone through similar things,” Ryder said. “I want people to remember I am brave and I did things for others. I want to help other people with cancer because I’m a cancer kid.”
Through the foundation, Ryder met a new friend, Emily. Unlike most kids involved in Rally, Emily does not have cancer. Emily started her involvement through her school, Timber Ridge Elementary.
“We were taking a little Rally girl to dinner about two years ago,” Emily said. “Our school was having an event for the girl’s sister because their family was going through a tough time. I thought that we should do something again for her, and her brother was at the school too. I talked to my principal and we organized a party and luncheon and I got all my friends and we had a great time and we put together gift baskets.”
Emily’s mom, Alyson, and her sister Courtney, 8, are also involved in Rally. The Roaches have lived in east Cobb since 2003.
While attending a concert in 2011 for Emily’s birthday, the family met another Rally kid, Tori, who lives in Columbus but comes to Scottish Rite for treatment.
“After we got that opportunity to meet Tori, we were so inspired by her,” Alyson Roach said. “One of the Rally families knew her and we ended up connecting back with her.”
Tori and Emily chat on the phone and see each other at Rally events.
Emily said Ryder is also an inspiration. She expects to attend Walton High School with Ryder in a few years.
“Her story and how she’s been pushing through cancer is amazing,” Emily said.
For Emily’s 11th birthday in March, she chose to give to Rally through the birthday club.
“I’ve always wanted to help out with Rally after meeting some of these kids and reading a lot of their stories,” Emily said. “It seemed right to help out. There are lots of kids who do it. They just take donations instead of gifts.”
Rally has financed more than $3 million in childhood cancer research since it was organized in 2005, Crowe said.
Reporter Kimeko McCoy contributed to this report.