17th Annual Chester Norman Thomas Motorcycle event set for Aug. 2


WESTMINSTER -- The Monadnock Harley Owner's Group's route might be different this year, but its mission definitely remains the same.

Monadnock HOG is gearing up for the 17th Annual Chester Norman Thomas Motorcycle Ride on Aug. 2 and all proceeds from registration fees will once again benefit David's House. The charity is a non-profit organization in Lebanon, N.H., that provides a free home away from home for the families of children receiving treatment through the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

The event was started in 1998 and is named after Chester Norman Thomas, who lost his battle with cancer as a youngster and once utilized David's House. Monadnock HOG took over when the young man's family members were no longer able to ride. Registration costs $20 for riders and passengers and goes from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at First Congregational Church on Route 5 in Westminster. The ride begins at the church and ends at David's House, where there will be a catered lunch. Raffle tickets will also be sold for $1 each or $5 for six.

In the past, the ride route has started in Westminster and gone around Lake Sunapee before heading north to Lebanon, but Monadnock HOG member Joe Sampsell said it may be a more direct route this year. He said Westminster is the starting point because that's the spot the Thomas family originally chose.

Sampsell said the ride has typically taken one to two hours to complete and is usually about 60 miles in length. He said he could not recall when Monadnock HOG got involved in the ride, but the group has never given up its support. He said there are typically 75 to 100 participating riders.

"I think it's just a great charity that we feel strongly about," he said last week. "We've made some promises to the Thomas family that we would continue to support it and we continue to feel strongly about the event."

Jaye Olmstead, the development director of David's House, said the nonprofit is the legacy of David Cyr, a young boy who died in 1984 after a battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Olmstead said David was treated at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and each time he returned home he would ask his father, Dick Cyr, if he could bring all his friends home with him. Dick noticed during his son's frequent trips to the children's hospital that many parents were sleeping in their vehicles or in chairs in their child's hospital room because they could not afford to stay in a nearby lodging facility and refused to leave their child's side. The Cyrs were fortunate enough to live in Hartland -- 20 minutes from the hospital -- and David always asked to be able to help his fellow patients.

"He cared about every single person he ever met, especially kids, and he begged us to take them home with us," Cyr recalled. "He was a special kid."

Cyr explained David was living in a car in the Brattleboro area when he and his wife gained custody of him at 10 months old. He was formally adopted at 3-and-a-half. He said David was diagnosed at 22 months and went through three-and-half-years of treatment and eight relapses before he died on Sept. 8, 1984.

Cyr said his son was fond of squirreling away the tiny amounts of money he collected from birthdays and allowance and said it was for "a special reason." David's House was started with the $300.78 Dick found stashed around the house two days after David died. David's House opened its original doors with an $80,000 budget on Jan. 20, 1986, and the organization now boasts a budget of $800,000 and sits on land Dartmouth-Hitchcock leases to it for $1 a year. Cyr said nearly 13,000 families from around the world have been helped since it opened.

Cyr said he will be waiting at David's House on Aug. 2 when the riders arrive.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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