RALEIGH, NC (AP) — When a stranger drove off last Wednesday night with the Bagley family’s golf cart parked in their driveway, they stole no ordinary golf cart.
Ever since the Bagleys’ 2-year-old daughter, Sara Beth, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of four months, they’ve taken her daily, sometimes several times a day, for golf cart rides around the neighborhood.
“I know this may not seem like a big deal, but this dilapidated golf cart is one of my two-year-old cancer warrior’s only constant sources of joy and comfort in this world,” explained Sara Beth’s mother, Rachel Bagley. a Facebook post that Thursday, asking to look out for the green golf cart with a broken back seat.
The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office was alerted and people suggested ideas in the comment section, including posting to the Nextdoor app and starting a GoFundMe so people could donate money for a new golf cart.
On Friday evening, a woman from Benson, about 30 minutes south of the Bagleys’ home in Clayton, informed Benson’s police that she had seen the golf cart. In turn, they passed the message to the sheriff’s office, who brought the good news to the Bagleys.
The next morning, Rachel’s husband Adam drove to Benson to return the golf cart home.
“She asks at least three to four times a day. She doesn’t care if it’s freezing cold or sweltering hot, but she wants a golf cart ride,” Rachel Bagley said in an interview Saturday after Sara Beth reunited. was with the golf cart. “Those were her first words to me this morning, ‘golf cart ride mama.'”
WEEKLY CHEMOTHERAPY TRIPS
This week marks two years since Sara Beth began chemotherapy on November 25, 2019 to reduce the size of her tumor, which is located in her hypothalamus, an area of the brain responsible for producing hormones that control critical functions such as regulate body functions. temperature, heart rate, hunger, sleep and thirst, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Doctors told Rachel Bagley and her husband early on that the tumor was inoperable, because of its location in the center of the brain and the risk of damaging important brain functions, she said.
The first year of chemotherapy was especially tough for Sara Beth, as doctors gave her a stronger treatment that was expected to be more effective at shrinking the tumor, but also made her sick more often, especially in the car. The first car seat she used was tilted so much that due to a balance disorder caused by the tumor, Sara Beth felt like she was falling backwards, Rachel Bagley said.
As a baby, Sara Beth cried constantly when she wasn’t sleeping or eating, and she wanted to be held and moved all the time.
The old, worn-out golf cart, which Adam brought home in the fall of 2019 and which the Bagleys initially thought wouldn’t mean much to them, eventually provided much-needed relief for both Sara Beth and her parents.
“She didn’t like it when we sat down and held her. She wanted us to get up and walk around with her, so she was a very tiring baby for us,” Rachel Bagley said. “The golf cart was the only place I could sit down or Adam could sit down and hold her, and she’d be happy.”
Daily golf cart rides became a ritual: Every night after the Bagleys put Liam, their 4-year-old son, to bed, they took Sara Beth for a few rounds around the neighborhood. And despite her speech being delayed due to hearing loss caused by the chemotherapy, one of the first words she learned to say was “golf cart.”
NEIGHBORS AND FOREIGNERS COME FOR FAMILY HELP
When the golf cart was stolen on Wednesday, a neighbor of the Bagleys volunteered their golf cart to make sure Sara Beth could continue driving.
The number of available golf carts doubled two days later when a stranger named Rob Hartshorn, of Fuquay-Varina, called the Bagleys while they were at Duke Children’s Hospital in Durham for Sara Beth’s weekly chemotherapy.
Hartshorn, who told them his twin brother had died of leukemia at age 13, and remembered making the weekly trips to Duke for chemotherapy, told the Bagleys he wanted to give them something and asked what time they would return to Clayton. .
When they got home, Sara asked Beth for a golf cart ride. Five minutes later, Hartshorn pulled into their driveway with his own golf cart and said he wanted the Bagleys to keep him.
“It was so generous and I’m just blown away by the kindness of people,” Rachel Bagley said. “I feel like for that one mean thing that was done, there have been over 200 people who have been nice and showed kindness. We felt so down and disappointed with people, but I feel like the community came out and showed us ‘this is who we are’.”
Last weekend the Bagleys took Sara Beth for a ride in her old golf cart, but Rachel had to push it from behind as the key was still in the Benson Police Evidence safe.
In addition to the generosity of their neighbors and Hartshorn, whose golf cart the Bagleys plan to return, the family learned of Sasser Golf Carts, a dealer and repair shop in Goldsboro. They too had heard of what had happened and wanted to give Sara Beth a new golf cart, but after hearing that the original cart had been found and slightly damaged, they agreed to collect it from the Bagleys’ house and take it to to repair.
A GoFundMe started by a friend of the Bagleys has raised more than $11,000 from more than 200 donations in just days. The family will spend some of the money on repairing the golf cart, some of it to Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas, a support organization that has reimbursed some of the Bagleys’ food and travel expenses, and use the remaining money. to pay off. outstanding medical expenses, she said.
Sara Beth’s treatment continues as her parents consider their next steps in the fight against her daughter’s cancer, which has now been going on for more than two years. But meanwhile, Rachel said, they’re glad her beloved golf cart is back.
“It seems so silly and trivial,” Rachel said of the golf cart theft. “But it’s not for her.”