“Adults get cancer…. not kids.” That was mama bear Samantha Spoto’s first reaction to hearing the news that her three-year-old son, Jacob, had leukemia in August of 2019. “We never saw cancer coming,” Samantha and her husband, Stephen, shared. “I was 35 weeks pregnant with our daughter, and we had just been talking about how calm things would be for her birth compared to her brother’s. Jacob was born with bi-lateral club feet so we were in doctors offices the week after he was born. Our daughter’s scans had been clear so we figured we were done with specialty doctors.”
In the midst of the chaos of a cancer diagnosis, Samantha started researching organizations that provided resources for kids fighting cancer. That’s where she discovered Roc Solid Foundation. “I LOVED the idea of a playset for him but I figured they probably wouldn’t be able to help since they were located in the Virginia area,” Samantha told us. “ This felt like the perfect thing that would really help to inspire Jacob to keep living life. I was completely floored when I got the phone call that Roc Solid wanted to provide a playset for Jacob.”
Play Defeats Cancer
Roc Solid sent a playset to Jacob’s home, where his papa bear, Stephen, built it with some help from Jacob’s grandfather and mama bear. “It took a couple of days, but it was fun watching Jacob play with all the parts as we were assembling it,” his mama and papa bear told us. Jacob’s curiosity grew as the playset went up. It wasn’t long before the Spoto family had a very excited kiddo on their hands.
“He loves the swings, especially the ship wheel swing,” Samantha shared. “We call it the pirate ship swing. He loves the slide and coming up with adventure stories on the upper deck. The lower part usually gets turned into a jail where he tries to capture us or our dog in his imagination games.”
“The playset gave us freedom”
Roc Solid builds playsets for kids fighting cancer because play is one of the first things taken when kids are diagnosed. Play lets the kiddo forget about treatment and just be a kid. The playset gives the family a safe place for their kiddos to play without worrying about germs attacking their kiddo’s compromised immune system.
“The playset gave us freedom to play again and for Jacob to be a kid,” Samantha testified. “He couldn’t go to our local park or really do anything outside of the house. He finally had a place to play that was safe for him and I didn’t have to worry about what germs might be on it from other kids. There truly is not another organization that offers this kind of long term freedom for the kids who are fighting cancer.”
Jacob was one of the first Florida kiddos to receive a playset. Today, Roc Solid has a local base in Orlando, Florida, which allows us to say “yes!” to more families like the Spoto’s.
When Jacob’s mama bear contacted Roc Solid Foundation, we discovered that the children’s hospital they were treated at was not partnered with us to distribute Ready Bags. We shipped a Ready Bag to the Spoto family immediately. Samantha shared, “The things that go into that bag seem small but they are so crucial to meeting the basic needs of families during diagnosis and really help ease the burden of having nothing at the hospital.”
Now, in 2023, Roc Solid Foundation is partnered with every children’s hospital in Florida. That means every family diagnosed with pediatric cancer in Florida will receive a Ready Bag, so that no family will have to go without essential items or be separated during one of the most scary times of their lives. This is what hope looks like in Florida!
A Symbol of Hope
Today, Jacob is two years post-treatment and doing great! “His favorite color is green and he is very loyal to it,” Samantha shared. “He asked for his playset to be painted green last year, and we couldn’t deny him.” The Spoto family still enjoys spending time together on their playset—a lasting symbol of the Roc Solid community that stood alongside them through their journey.
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No matter how you can help, we can all be a part of building hope for kiddos like Jacob.