CLEVELAND — Christopher Johnson survived cancer. Now, the northeast Ohioan is on a mission to help others do the same.
Johnson uses his passion for cars to drive home a message of hope.
He shined up his 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 and 2019 Mustang GT for a special drive.
“People give you thumbs up. They smile. They love it,” he said.
Projecting positivity is important to Johnson after he received some life-changing news from doctors two years ago.
“'You have leukemia, sir. You have to stay here (in the hospital),’” he recalled. “I said, ‘Stay here? What?’ ‘We have to give you chemo for 30 days.’”
He spent weeks in the hospital where he came up with an idea to inspire other patients.
“To let them know they’re not forgotten,” Johnson said.
He decided to have a Cruise for Cancer when he was discharged, a parade of cars past the hospital.
“I wanna make it about the patients,” Johnson said. “I don’t want those patients to be sitting in the bed. I want those patients to be sitting in a wheelchair, if they’re tired. Sitting by the window looking out. Smiling, laughing.”
This is his second year in remission and second year organizing the event.
He drove his Mustang to lead a line of classic and sports cars, escorted by a fire truck.
His wife, Halima, handled the antique auto.
“It helps to have something like this to keep their spirits up, so they’ll continue to fight the disease,” she said.
She’s a three-time ovarian cancer survivor.
“I always get emotional because I saw the process of him being diagnosed, and me being diagnosed before, and watched him walk through the process and recover,” she said.
She called the car parade a “blessing."
“I told everyone I wasn’t leaving the hospital unless my husband was with me and recovered, so it’s an emotional day and I’m happy,” Halima said.
The train of cars made its way from Richmond Heights to the Cleveland Clinic, where Bob Shelton caught up with the group in his 1968 Buick Skylark.
“Everybody’s got a point in their life where one of these cars rings a bell,” he said. “They either had one or family did.”
Shelton is now retired after working at Cleveland Clinic for 36 years. He said he wanted to do his part to help make a difference for the patients.
“They’re kind of captive, so to speak, but they can look out windows and they can look out benches to see some classic cars,” Shelton said.
The group of drivers revved their engines outside patient windows to help rev up spirits.
“I hope that it will change lives, inspire people,” Johnson said. “And give them hope.”
Johnson plans to continue the Cruise for Cancer every August, and said any classic or sports car is welcome to join the parade.