Thomas’ Front Row Experience: Rugby World Cup Game
Thomas Kay LOVES rugby more than anything in the world and is an amazing athlete. He knows all the teams and players and follows all the games. Before his health took a turn for the worst, he was an amazing rugby player and was going to be playing for the University of Victoria’s Vikes team on scholarship.Unfortunately that never got to happen. It is hard to describe Thomas’ medical history because so many doctors have left his family and friends with so many unanswered questions.
In 2008 he developed paralysis on his left side of his body, starting in his leg and after a short period of time moving into his arm. At first doctors believed Thomas had a slip disc in his back from playing rugby but as things progressed Thomas was admitted into the hospital in August 2008 where he received his 1st of 4 craniotomies. Doctors came to numerous diagnoses’ including that he had T Cell Lymphoma of the brain. Thomas went on to receive 28 brain radiation treatments until doctors gave up and said there was nothing more they could do for him. Throughout the radiation Thomas’ left side became completely paralyzed, his right side became extremely weak, he lost his eyesight, short term memory and the ability to communicate. Thomas friends and family were put through a roller-coaster of not knowing what was going on and what was going to happen next for him.
His charismatic attitude and ability to believe in the impossible has put him where he is today. He believed in the impossible, and that his positivity would be the best medicine. Thomas believes that whatever was plaguing him is gone and he is determined to get back to himself.
It was his dream to go to the Rubgy World Cup and see Canada play the Famous All Blacks. So on September 25th Thomas and his parents set off on the largest experience the Front Row Foundation has ever undertaken. Living life in the Front Row INTERNATIONALLY!!
The first few days after arriving in Wellington, New Zealand were spent exploring the lively and exciting city.
The highlights of the trip certainly started on Friday when Brittany, Thomas, Paul and family friend Bill got to accompany Team Canada to the Wellington Regional Stadium and go out on the pitch to meet the team and view the stadium from a ‘player’s perspective’.
The guys from Team Canada were so kind and all were anxious to meet Thomas in person. That night they all got to visit the team’’s hotel and join them for dinner. Team captain, Pat Riordan gave them a full tour of the player’s area, explaining the rituals of a world class rugby team as they tour from city to city. They were also joined at dinner by long time family friend Matt Evans who started for Canada in their last two games and another player, Tyler Hotson. At dinner, Matt presented Thomas with a gift, a Canada jersey signed by the entire team, as a thank you for his support.
The next night was the Front Row Dinner which they had at a wonderful Italian restaurant, Frateli’s, joined by 4 more friends. Caity McCulloch graduated with Sean and is a photographer for Team Canada and Pat Fraser grew up playing rugby with Thomas. They were also joined by John and Harry, two other friends traveling with Caity and Pat. It was a memorable night full of laughter and great food.
Sunday was the main event–team Canada vs. the All Blacks. It was known heading into the game that NZ would crush the Canadians but they were hopeful that they would score at least one try against the All Blacks. Thomas had wheelchair seating for the event, and they were fortunate that everyone got to stay with him for the first few minutes of the game. It was a beautiful moment when Tom’s parents, Shelley and Paul, helped him stand for the singing of the national anthems! After that, Brittany, Sean, Paul and Shelley were seated in another area and Tom got to sit with friends Pat and John for the game and experience a real ‘boys afternoon’. Even though Canada lost 79-15, they were successful in scoring not just 1 but 2 tries against the All Blacks!! After the game, Thomas was eager to chat and had a smile on his face. It was clear the event meant the world to him.
Special thanks to:
- Keiran Crowley (coach Team Canada)
- Rodger Swany (manager Team Canada)
- Caity McCulloch (Team Photographer and Friend of Thomas)
- Pat Riordan (Captain for Team Canada)
- Matt Evans (Player for Team Canada and Friend)
- Tyler Hotson (Player for Team Canada and Friend)
- Pat Fraser (Thomas’ Friend)
- John DuBiel (Thomas’ Friend)
- Fratelli’s Restaurant, the location of the Saturday night dinner
- Emily Langevin who referred Thomas to the Front Row Foundation and got to present Thomas with the tickets at Christmas time last year
- Brittany Serafini who was the Front Row Foundation’s Event Guide
- The representative’s from Cutco’s Can Rock Division & Pacific Coast Division for raising money to help make this event possible!