Living to ride: British girl celebrates graduation from cancer treatment in Oklahoma City with motorcycle sendoff
The graduation ceremony at the ProCure Proton Therapy Center on Wednesday ended with a rumble of thunder on a day with clear skies.
More than 50 motorcyclists assembled to give Katie McGann, 11, a proper Oklahoma sendoff.
“That’s not thunder,” Katie said as the procession approached the window of the room where the graduation celebration was taking place.
Katie, of Manchester, England, came to Oklahoma City in June for treatment of a brain tumor.
“Since she’s been a little girl, she’s just had a fascination for the motorbikes. A dear friend of ours in England had a motorcycle he let her go on for a quick ride, and from that day, she has just been absolutely obsessed with Harley-Davidsons,” said her mother, Marie McGann.
Obsession seems to be the right word for it. In addition to the motorcycle-shaped balloon hovering around her head at graduation, Katie was wearing one of her finest Harley-Davidson T-shirts.
“Since we’ve been in America, the bikes are tremendous over here, so she’s just loved it. Loved every minute of it,” McGann said.
Katie met fellow patient Gary Edminster, 79, of Wichita, Kan., at a weekly meal patients attend. She complimented Edminster’s shirt at the Cattleman’s dinner the day after arriving in the country, and soon the two became friends.
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“The first time I heard the word ‘Harley’ come out of Gary’s mouth, I was like ‘Yep. You’re my new best friend,’” Katie said.
Katie underwent treatment first, and Edminster was up next, so the families spent plenty of time to together this summer. Both received treatment five days a week, Katie for her tumor and Edminster for prostate cancer.
“When I started to graduate, I told my two sons about her. And they said we’ll ride. One rode from Dallas, Texas, and the other from Wichita. And they took her on rides and everything. They stopped by the Harley store and bought her some shirts and different things,” Edminster said.
The two formed a bond, as did their families, even traveling to Kansas for a zoo trip, weenie roast and, of course, motorcycle rides.
“Harley riders are a unique group. They all band together. And they especially love children,” Edminster said.
Edminster’s son helped assemble the group of riders — including Oklahoma County motorcycle deputies and the Storm Riders Chapter of the Harley Owners Group.
The bikers planned to take a ride in Katie’s honor from the treatment center down to the Fort Thunder Harley Harley-Davidson dealership in Moore for cupcakes and other treats.
Though graduation was Wednesday, Katie has three more proton sessions, concluding Monday, before the family leaves for Europe next week.
The families plan to keep in touch electronically when the McGanns return to the United Kingdom.
“That little girl, I mean, she is upbeat all the time. She’s just a wonderful kid. The family was great,” Edminster said.