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tHE tHUNDER ride Team

We couldn't make this happen if it weren't for our awesome team. Here are their reasons for bringing the thunder to childhood cancer.

Kids Top

Peter Halper

The Rider

(Emery's Great Uncle)

I am convinced that the bravest thing a person can do in life is to choose to continue to love in the face of unimaginable heartbreak, suffering, and hardship. I have met many families; parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and of course the child with cancer…all whom make this exact choice multiple times every day after they were told “your child has cancer.” I have been deeply moved by their lives and want to help them.

The first time I was really confronted with this type of love was when I went to Emery’s funeral. To this day I can not personally answer how a family goes through the loss of a child and yet still chooses to love. I am inspired by Emery’s family who despite a brokenness which is so deep there are hardly words to describe it, they continue to choose to love. They started a foundation, Emery’s Memory Foundation, to help families go through what they went through.


In 2018 it was initially Jenna, Emery’s mom, and Missy (my sister and Emery’s grandma) who inspired me to utter the most simple of words “what can I do to help?” And, in 2020 with the help of many people, I ran across the USA. 3,100 miles. More than a marathon a day for 114 days. We named that event “Emery’s Thunder Run. ” From that over $165,000 was given by amazing people many of whom I met while running. That money was used by both Beat Childhood Cancer Foundation and Emery’s Memory Foundation.


It was on that journey of running across America that I met so many more families that face and go through what Jenna goes through.  I am moved by so many life stories that are both heart shattering and filled with hope. So much so that in 2023 I will cross the country again, under my own power using a bicycle.


The same core team that made Emery’s Thunder Run so successful is back together for Emery’s Thunder Ride.  I will bike across the USA three consecutive times for a distance of 8,728 miles.  And the big obvious question I get asked, one I hope people will continue to ask as I work my way through more than half the states in this country,  is “why are you doing this?” And I then get to say “because I know a mom named Jenna whose daughter Emery was taken by cancer who needs our help helping families go through what she goes through. Because I know a mom named Sarah who has a son named Jack, also taken by cancer, and she is leading  an organization (Beat Childhood Cancer) that is actively finding and administering safer and effective treatments….today…now…for various childhood cancers and she has asked for our help. Because I was welcomed into a local park (while on the Thunder Run) with a warm strong hug from a young boy named Nathan who was bravely living despite cancer in his body (tragically he passed just months later).” I am doing it because what I do gets the attention of people and once I have their attention I get to tell them about the bravest people I know who continue to choose love. And it is that combination of my small sacrifice and the unimaginable sacrifice of the families that I do this for, that moves many of the people I meet along the way to say the words we all long to hear “I care. What can I do to help?” 

Jenna Smith

Founder & Director

(Emery's Mommy)

My reason why is Emery and always will be. Emery was my mini me and my whole world.


Even though she was only being two years old at diagnosis and three years old when she passed she was able to inspire so many with her courage, her love of life and her amazing smile. She fought so incredibly hard for a year, going through more then most adults will go through in their entire lives.


The treatments for her cancer were harsh and aggressive and yet nothing could get even one of her many scans to be clear. If I could have I would have traded places with her in an instant. As a parent I would have done anything to save her, but I could not.


I am dedicated to bringing awareness to childhood cancer and to providing funding for research and for families with children that are currently fighting their own battles because I have been there. I know what it is like to watch your child fight so very bravely but at such a disadvantage from the start. I also know what it is like to have no choice but to watch as your child takes their last breath.


Emery’s fight may be over but ours is just beginning. Emery’s Thunder Ride is so important to me. Not just because of the potential funding for Neuroblastoma research and the increase in childhood cancer awareness but the chance to be able to accomplish these things in honor of my daughter means everything to me.

Robin Halper.JPG


(Emery's Great Aunt)

​Peter and I have been married for nearly 30 years, and have four amazing children of our own - Savanna, Maggie, Naomi and Jacob.  We also have three adorable grandsons - Liam, Levi and Luca.  After being a stay at home mom for nearly two decades, I headed back to school in 2016 and earned a Master’s degree in counseling.  I really love the work I do on an in-patient behavioral health unit at a nearby hospital.  
When Peter shared the idea for Emery’s Thunder Ride with me, I didn’t hesitate to jump in and wholeheartedly support his desire to do it.  The experiences of preparing for and watching Peter run across America in 2020 dramatically shifted my perspective on life and I knew I would never be the same.  Childhood cancer was far away until it came closer with Emery’s diagnosis.  Emotionally, I was still quite removed from the reality of kids with cancer until Emery’s journey got harder and harder.  It is difficult to put into words what it felt like to learn of her passing.  There are no words.  I do know that the sadness I feel for her parents and grandparent’s loss only grows stronger the longer she has been gone.  And she isn’t the only child I have seen taken away from this horrible disease.  Lincoln, Lily, Taryn, GG, Nathan, Wes, Talon, Mason, Natalie, Iliana and Axlyn…unfathomable!
I am committed to do all that I can to help move the dial closer to having a cure so that NO parent has to fear the words “your child has cancer.”  

Missy Smith

Co-Founder &Treasurer

(Emery's Mema)

Loving and losing a granddaughter to childhood cancer has changed the very core of who I am. Seeing Em fight cancer, fight to survive harsh treatments, and ultimately to lose her just seems so wrong. It bewilders and honestly angers me that in today’s day and age that there are no treatments that could save her. Being a part of Em’s journey exposed to me to two extremes. First, the immense love and generosity from friends, family, and strangers. Second, on the flip side, I was exposed to the depth of disparity in childhood cancer funding. Did you know that our government only gives 4% of it’s cancer funding to children… FOUR PERCENT!!!?


As a family we all knew that we wanted to be a part of change for childhood cancer. Emery’s Memory Foundation was born from that and is committed to loving on our “Emery’s” kiddos like we were when we were in the fight with Em, as well to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer.


Now my endless love for Em drives me to make things better. This grand undertaking, Emery’s Thunder Ride, provides an outlet for that love. Love for the children and families who are still in the fight. Love for the children and families whose fight is done. I want to see a day in my lifetime where no other grandparents lose their grandchildren to cancer.


Because of Emery. For our “Emery’s” kiddos. For all the children who will be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow. You deserve more than 4%.


Serena Sackrider

Co-Founder & Secretary

(Emery's Mema)

My reason why is Emery.


I am Emery’s “At Home” Mema.


Emery was a blessing to behold. Her little 3 year old body was packed full of a beautiful spirit that radiated so much joy and an endless love for her family and life. She just wanted to be a healthy child. Emery longed to go outside and play, take an adventure to the zoo, pick flowers, and search the sky for the moon and stars. Instead she was inside. Inside a small hospital room for one third of her life fighting an aggressive painful cancer with more bravery and courage than anyone could even possibly imagine. Emery endured test after test, treatment after treatment with a contagious smile that encouraged and inspired the lives of many friends and strangers.


I have heard it said, “If you ever see a child fight cancer, it will change your life forever”. I have been changed forever. I would have moved heaven and earth to save Emery. Somehow, some way, we must do more. Emery deserved so much more. Our children deserve so much more.


For this reason, I have banded together with family and friends that passionately commit to honor Emery and her memory by raising much needed awareness and donations for funding neuroblastoma research, as well as a helping hand and happiness to childhood cancer fighters and their families.

Zach Smith

Emery's Daddy

Paul Smith

Emery's Papa

Ed Sackrider

Emery's Grandpa



emery inspired a rebellion

She was small but she was fierce.

Emery was only 2 years old when she was diagnosed with cancer, not just cancer but Stage 4 Neuroblastoma with the odds stacked against her from day one. 

She fought more bravely than any child ever should, but the available treatments failed her. 

Now we fight back. This foundation was created to save and support kids with Neuroblastoma - in memory of Emery. 

We must change this.

Emery's Story

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