Special Stories

Hero and Friends For Life…
Two special meanings for some of us, but for me the both of them actually mean a lot to me.

In October of 2004, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine telling me to read this story - it was the story of this young lady with a dream, and how her father was going to make her dream come true. Newspaper reporter Bobbi-Jean McKibbon, whom I will remember for the rest of my life, wrote the story.

I started reading her newspaper article and the tears just started to come down my face, and I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. This father and his daughter, Tabitha, decided to sell all of their possessions in a yard sale, in order to buy a 1976 motor home to travel across the whole country of Canada.

I just couldn’t believe my eyes - what a father wouldn’t do to make his daughter’s dream a reality. It really touched my heart and I knew right there and then that I had to get involved somehow.

I had to get in touch with the father, Stephen Hawkins, to see if I could be of help in any way. The only answer he could give me was, “All I want is to make it across the country with my daughter to make Sturge-Weber an awareness…” and to also have the prayers of everyone. Since I’m in the automotive business, I told Stephen that if he needed anything just to give me a call.

I found out 4 years ago that I was diagnosed with the same syndrome as Tabitha and I always felt like I was the only one in Canada with this; that was until I got involved with a few people that had Sturge-Weber syndrome, and some parents of children with this same syndrome.

Tabitha and Stephen’s story, for me, just couldn’t go by with no one in this country knowing about this father and daughter, and about their Canadian Trek. I e-mailed a bunch of my friends who had the same syndrome, and I guess it went on from there.

I tried to get in contact with gas companies to see if they could help out with gas coupons, and I e-mailed a bunch of other companies to see what we could get for them. I started sending Bobbi McKibbon’s story to all of the news networks that I knew out there and in my own region. I did get some responses from some of them who wanted to meet up with them.

Tom and TabithaSo I kept in contact with Stephen and his daughter from that day forward, and my wife and I decided to invite them to spend a week during our holidays at our home.

It was a pleasure to finally meet them on June 14 of this year, and it was like I had known these people all my life. We did all sorts of things together - we visited all sorts of places that Stephen and Tabitha wanted to see and we were all invited to Ganaoque, the Thousand Islands, to take the boat cruise and Tabitha got to drive one of these ships also.

We met the mayor of the city and then we were invited to take a ride in one of the city’s fire trucks. What an awesome ride this was. We were also invited to see the Jeff Healey Band and for some of you who don’t know Jeff Healey, he plays all sorts of instruments and he is completely blind. What an amazing show.

Stephen and Tabitha were treated like royalty everywhere they went. They did hit some bumps on the road but I think they were able to realize the dream of a lifetime.

It shows to you that whatever you get as a sickness or a syndrome, there are always people out there that are always willing to help.

Their story should be aired next year on a 1-hour television special. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see my face on camera also (ha, ha!) Thanks to Jon Pederson and his wife, who have made this documentary a reality.

I would like to end this by telling everyone that we became “friends for life” and my new “Hero” is now Tabitha Dunphy and I consider her as my little sister.

Thanks Tabitha for giving me a second chance in life, to understand what I have, and that life is very precious.

Tom Gilbert

mission statement

The Sturge-Weber Syndrome Community, a branch of the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation, provides support and services freely and upon a volunteer basis for individuals and families living with SWS and vascular birthmarks, while sponsoring research and promoting physician education and awareness, as well as education of the public at large.