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There is Gold Under that Rust – Neil Graham

“When you have a dream, don’t let it slip away from you. Just go and chase your dream and make it become reality.”

Jeremy Cassidy May 2, 2018. Part of a school project.

When Jeremy was about 12 he found his dream vehicle. He would see it every time he had a trip for treatments. Jeremy shared his dream with his Dad, Tim, who made many attempts to contact the owner and endeavour to buy it. Finally they connected. Tim explained the situation to Roger the owner and made a deal. Jeremy fronted the cash and he was the proud owner of a very tired 1954 Chev stepside, 5 window pickup.

How did Jeremy and his family get here? Tim kindly described this truck as “not the truck we would be doing for Jeremy if the situation was different.” Jeremy’s situation? Well, at age 11 Jeremy was playing his favourite game – hockey. He had noticed his shot was not as hard or accurate as it previously was and he was falling down more. Then he got hit. A slight headache that eventually went away resulted. The next game he got hit and the headache was worse and lasted longer. Mom, Henrietta, and he were off to visit the family doctor to deal with a suspected concussion. Only it was not. After tests, that same day they were on their way to Sick Kids in Toronto where a surgeon was waiting. They learned Jeremy has a serious inoperable brain tumour.

Jeremy’s comments to me recently were reflective of his maturity. “Kids at Sick Kids grow up in a hurry. At least I had my childhood. Some of these kids don’t. At first, I did not understand it all but I do now.” All were stated matter of factually and without any of the “why me?” inflection by an amazing almost 18 year old who has been through so much. But let’s focus on the truck.

They bought the truck. It has been kindly referred to as a lawn ornament but Roger (the previous owner) and Jeremy never saw that. They saw gold. The day they went to pick it up, Roger Kimmett had it all loaded on dollies and ready to tow. Tim and Jeremy followed Roger. After a 90 kilometre per hour trail of rust, dust and parts – plus a stop to tie a fender down – most of the truck made it to its new home at the Cassidy’s. Significantly lighter, was Jeremy’s comment. While it was dropped in the front yard, that day it got pushed around to the shop and the box was removed. Jeremy says he spent many hours behind the wheel dreaming of travelling 1,000’s of kilometres. Jeremy knew there was gold beneath that rust.

The work started. Tim is a “car guy” whose family was always wrenching, repairing and tidying whatever they drove. But this was a huge job. So work went slowly. This is a busy family and Jeremy was away a lot for treatments that did not always leave him able to work at the truck.

When Jeremy was 15, he learned that a car guy his family knew was in the Kingston Hospital. This car guy also knew what Jeremy was going through. Neil Candy had suffered a concussion and a heart attack while racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Racing was over for Neil. While selling his race equipment and vehicles and thinking he was only a few days retired, he was struggling with what was he going to do now? Confessing to even feeling a little sorry for himself, his world quickly turned brighter when he got the following text from 15 year old Jeremy, “Don’t worry, Neil. We will get through this.” Neil immediately joined Jeremy’s Car Buddy Team.

Time to get the truck restoration really going. Tim and Jeremy had been trying to get into a local wrecking yard but the owner was not interested in selling only accumulating. But when he passed, the nephews were quite willing to let them in. So for 10 solid weekends, father and son scoured the yard. Firstly for parts for the truck and secondly for parts they could buy and sell to help with the truck restoration.

Metal work on the truck was, to be kind, major and extensive. Tim and Jeremy made amazing headway and advice from Neil – a world class fabricator – helped. As did Neil’s suggestion that they take all their “for sale” parts to the large swap meet at the International Centre in Toronto. Jeremy said he had the messiest set up but people came and talked to him and bought. He was able to buy some parts. He learned a valuable lesson on selling to car guys (well to anyone), once you have decided what the price is for your parts, Stand Your Ground. A successful event which was further supported by some donations. Jeremy’s Car Buddy Gang started to grow exponentially.

On the way home, accompanied by Neil Candy, they stopped at one of Jeremy’s favourite restaurants. When Jeremy came to the table, he was greeted with what he describes as a “wad of cash” sitting in his place. More support from friends and friends of friends.

While all the truck stuff was going on and before, Jeremy was busy helping and participating in things relating to his cancer treatments and helping others. Jeremy found the Magic of OOCH. Camp Oochigeas is a camp for kids with cancer. It is free to the kids and is the only non-hospital site in Ontario where blood transfusions and Chemo treatments are done on site. These procedures are authorized because the camp is staffed by fully qualified medical volunteers. While at camp, Jeremy was asked to help a blind camper, Jake, go fishing. Jeremy was not only willing but determined Jake would catch a fish and he did. Not sure who was more excited – Jake or Jeremy. For this and his kindnesses to others Jeremy was awarded the Golden Heart Award. Jeremy also raised the most money in his school for Relay for Life – a Canadian Cancer Society event – and he was a speaker at the event. It is not hard to see where this giving back to the community comes from. Tim coaches the Triple A Quinte Red Devil Peewee hockey team and Jeremy helps with the team doing whatever his dad needs. The team entered the Chevrolet Good Deeds Hockey Program with a goal to win the Chev Cup. They did not win but came third and donated the $7,000 they won to Ronald McDonald House.

An S10 was found to put under the truck as the existing frame was beyond repair. The S10 came with complete working running gear including a V6 and a 4 speed. So before they got too far, it was time for Jeremy to drive a 4 speed for the first time. Only in the yard though, as he was not street legal. So with Dad Tim riding shotgun and Jeremy behind the wheel, off they went.

The path of destruction included among other things, a hockey net, a wheel barrow and other non-important things as millions of laughs were created.

No one hurt and the truck not damaged. But driving stopped there for now. The truck was mounted on the S10. Tim shortened the box by 7 inches and now it better fits the new frame and is now effectively a short box pickup.

More and more progress was completed on the truck and, while not running, they had an opportunity to go to a car show run by Jeff Crawford – Fender’s Day 2018. Jeremy was four days out Sick kids having had his second Ommaya procedure when this car show was scheduled. But despite this major brain surgery he just had, Jeremy was okayed to go, but stay out of the sun. The Cassidy family thought they were being invited to a show and if the truck was running Jeremy could drive it. So they hustled to put it together for the show. Jeremy did get to drive it up onto the trailer, but it was not running. As directed, they parked it near the entrance. Unknown to them, Fender’s Day is a car show that singles out a deserving person who needs a little help. Jeremy was an ideal candidate as he was building his own hot rod truck despite health issues. Fender’s Day 2018 was for Jeremy and he had a large day. He got to ride in many of the hot rods present. It was suggested he take a big piece of cardboard and write any and all parts he needed plus talk to everyone and see what happens. One of the big items on his list was a new grille. Jeremy’s balance and right side of his body do not work the way they should. While working on the truck, he took a tumble on the original grille. Jeremy’s one word was “destroyed!” New friendships were made during the show and new members joined what was becoming Jeremy’s Car Buddy Gang. Near the end of the show, using Jeremy’s list of what was needed to complete the project, a parts order was placed with a local supplier, Bill Peters. Bill returned to the show in his classic GMC panel truck and backed up to Jeremy’s truck. The back doors of Bill’s truck were opened and all kinds of parts for Jeremy’s truck were loaded into a Cassidy vehicle for the ride home, including the much needed new grille and cash to help with the build.

Another extremely kind thing that happened at this show involved the 50/50. It was won by a gentleman who fit the role of the original hot rodder. He won and said he won, but sat there quietly. He then asked in a deep voice, “How much was it?” He heard the reply of $550. Sat some more and then earned the respect of all present when he quietly said, “Give it to the young guy.”

The entire Cassidy family was there and very much appreciated what the organizers, attendees and supporters not even present at this show, did for Jeremy and his project. Jeremy has vowed to be there next year to support 2019’s recipient. So home again and right into tearing the truck apart, with renewed enthusiasm, so they could get back to restoration and the gold. They were hardly started when they got a call that they needed to put it back together. They were going to the Wheels on the Bay car show in Belleville. Cliff Waller was there and he is the owner of the Neil Candy built Hemi powered 1930 Ford named “Mother’s Worry.” Cliff stated that for this show the proceeds of all Mother’s Polishes sales would go to Jeremy. The truck needed to be there. In addition to cash, Jeremy also left the show with lots of Mother’s products to keep his truck shining for a long time.

Car people are amazing and so kind. Jeremy’s Car Buddy Gang keeps growing.

Jeremy’s treatment via 18 month long experimental chemo regime had to be halted, recently, for two weeks due to an unfavourable reaction to the drug. The chemo regime has restarted but on a lower dosage. Jeremy is doing well with this change. He is now in his longest “vacation” from visits to Sick kids, but due back December 17 for a check-up.

One of the family members we have not mentioned is Jeremy’s older brother, Tyson. Tyson is attending Loyalist College with a goal of becoming a civil engineer. He is a solid student earning marks that make the entire family proud. Like all family members, he does more than one thing. In his case he works at a lumber yard while attending school. Most noteworthy is his support of Jeremy and his goals. Tyson made a wooden floor for Jeremy’s truck box.

So back home and back at the truck. Jeremy really wanted a V8 and one was found from a 1977 Impala. A 305 CI and a 400 turbo auto, but they were in another car. Jeremy got them out, under his Dad’s and Neil’s direction. Tim and Jeremy got them installed in the truck.

While in Sick Kids for thanksgiving in 2018, Dad, Mom and Jeremy were talking about what they were thankful for. Dad, Tim, said he was thankful to live in Canada so they could access the medical support Jeremy needs. He readily acknowledged many other countries do not provide this support to their citizens. Mom, Henrietta, said she was thankful for Sick Kids and all they do for kids who need help. Jeremy was thankful for the medical professionals who are amazing and very importantly, honest when talking to him.

I have read several times two things that Jeremy wrote. One is “Dreams can come true” and “What will be your legacy?” The following are quotes from them both and reflect his maturity. “Once the truck was home, the real work began. Much like my cancer, once the diagnosis and tests came back, that’s when the battle started. I am always shocked at the support my family, friends and strangers gave me. I would like to be remembered as the guy who has gone through a lot but who has helped people who went through the same and much worse.”

The seat has been rebuilt and upholstered. The transmission was taken out, rebuilt and reinstalled. Glass is on hand, ready. Paint has been donated. Tires and wheels are on hand. The exhaust system is on hand. The build is almost done except for the last big step. The body work – mudding, sanding and actual painting, plus the final assembly that will include wiring, sound system, glass installation. They are reaching out, if any shop wants to volunteer to undertake this task and complete Jeremy’s dream, contact Neil Candy as outlined below. Anyone wishing to donate to help finding the rest of the gold in Jeremy’s truck can do so by going to Go Fund Me where, with the Cassidy Family blessing, a campaign has been opened in Jeremy’s name.  (Google Go Fund Me, go to home page, search “Jeremy Cassidy” and follow the instructions.) For those wishing to use more traditional methods, please send your cheque or money order to Neil Candy, 1337 Norway Road, Perth Road Village, Ontario K0H 2LO. This is an opportunity for everyone to join Jeremy’s Car Buddy Gang.

A huge thanks goes to the many people who have already helped the Cassidy family get this far with the rebuild of Jeremy’s dream truck. A huge thanks also goes to those who will help him complete his dream.

It is our wish that we help Jeremy realize his dream of having his 1954 Chev truck rebuild finished and to move Jeremy closer to his dream of trucking to the east coast on a father and son journey to the Atlantic Nationals Automotive Show in Moncton, New Brunswick in the summer of 2019.

We are all proud to call you friend, Jeremy. We all wish you the best and total success in achieving this goal. You are one outstanding young man with an amazing family supporting you.