HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WDTN) — A Huber Heights man will be hitting the water this weekend, kayaking more than 80 miles.
“When you’re on the water, you’re not thinking of anything else,” said Bill Thomas. “Throughout the time I’ve been training and working toward this goal, I’ve often been reminded of something special she used to always say — you can’t stop love.”
Bill Thomas is taking the trip in honor of his late wife, Jenny. He’s calling his trip “Paddle the Ducts.”
Jenny Thomas was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in August 2019. Two years later, in August 2021, she died.
“I had the chance to think about one of our last conversations together,” said Bill Thomas. “She was worried what I was going to do with myself, and I said eventually, I’ll get back in the kayak. And it just came to me –Paddle the Ducts.”
In Jenny Thomas’ memory, Bill Thomas will paddle 83 miles starting Saturday from the Mad River to the Ohio River. It’s a two-day trip and he will stop in Hamilton, which is the halfway point.
“The Marriott has made some nice accommodations for me. Then I’ll get back in in the morning and finish this off,” said Bill Thomas.
The trip is to not only to raise awareness for bile duct cancer, but also to raise money for the Dayton Art Institute, a place close to their hearts.
“I met Bill and Jenny Thomas in 2014 when they applied to be on the associate board,” said Elaine Gounaris, director of development for the Dayton Art Institute. “When Jenny was around, you wanted to hug her. You wanted to be in her company. And it was sort of one of those feelings, fun follows her.”
“They would come here and have family experience or date night and then getting to network and meeting so many people through the community and the associate board. It was a labor of love,” said Dayton Art Institute Director and CEO Michael Roediger.
For the last 20 years, the Thomas’ made special memories at the Dayton Art Institute. They served on the associate board, volunteered for the Oktoberfest, and attended Art Ball.
“When we have couples like that, they’re creating memories for themselves and opportunities for us to grow as an organization,” said Roediger. “I think Bill doing this kayak journey, it’s a labor but it’s a labor of love to honor the memory of this person, his wife, his soulmate whose smile lit up the room.”
As Bill Thomas holds tight all of the memories, he will carry Jenny Thomas’ love with him on the water as he paddles 83 miles.
“Those 20 years were the best. She was the best,” says Bill Thomas.
Bill Thomas is accepting donations and pledges for the Art Institute. If you would like to donate to his cause, you can do so online or by writing a check to the Art Institute in Jenny Thomas’ name.