submitted by Nicole Thompson
It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since my son, Sam Tobias, died. It seems like the blink of an eye, and on the other hand, it feels like a lifetime ago.
In memory of my sweet boy, Sam’s Fishing Derby was started by “Library Sue” Bergeron, the Children’s Program Coordinator at the North Grenville Public Library. Initially, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this event, as my heart still ached, and I was unsure if I could participate without being highly emotional. However, Sue was very patient and understanding. Over time, while my heart still aches, the grief has transformed into keeping Sam’s memory alive and well.
Sam’s Fishing Derby takes place annually on the last Saturday of June to mark the kick-off to summer vacation. It has been up and running since 2014, and it is incredible to see how much it has grown and changed over the years.
This year, Sam’s Fishing Derby takes place on Saturday, June 24th, at the dock by Salamanders, across from the North Grenville Public Library. Breakfast, snacks and water will be provided.
Sam’s Fishing Derby is more than just a fun community activity. It provides an opportunity for us to give back to other children and their families in North Grenville by raising funds for Sam’s Book Collection, promoting a love for reading and bringing the community together in Sam’s memory. Donations for Sam’s Book Collection are accepted in person or online for Sam’s Book Collection. Please visit www.ngpl.ca/support-the-library.
Sam was one of Library Sue’s ‘children’, and believe me, she has many. Sam and I often visited the Library at its old location at 207 Prescott St. and attended the weekly drop-in Sarah’s Circle to visit Library Sue.
Things changed in 2012 when Sam was diagnosed with a childhood form of x-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). People with ALD accumulate high levels of saturated, very long-chain fatty acids in the nervous system and adrenal cortex. It is a progressive disease that leads to a vegetative state.
Sam’s illness gradually robbed him of his senses until he could no longer walk, talk, communicate appropriately, and exhibited symptoms of dementia. Despite living in an abnormal situation, we tried hard to maintain some sense of normalcy. We continued to read every night, regardless of what he was losing. Though he lost many abilities, he still retained his ability to feel and touch. I would place his hand on my neck so he could feel the vibrations of my voice as I read to him, maintaining our bedtime routine. He would smile and make joyful noises as I read. It was one of the few enjoyments left in his short life. This is when I realized that reading to children is more than just stories; it’s about connecting with the people they love.
Sam passed away peacefully at home, one year after being diagnosed with ALD in 2013.
Despite Library Sue’s retirement from her role at the Library, she graciously continues to be a part of this special fundraising event. The Library also continues to support this event, and I am grateful to everyone involved. We hope to see you there on June 24, joining us in one of Sam’s favourite activities, fishing.