By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – A father and daughter are gearing up for the 29th Courage Classic Bicycle Tour. They will ride with their team in honor of the little girl they lost to a chronic genetic disease. They will be raising money to help find a cure.

(credit: Heather Schichtel)

“She was perfect. It was a magical day,” said Heather Schichtel.

Her daughter, Samantha, was a beautiful baby, born on July 18, 2006.

“Today is Samantha’s birthday. She would have been 12 years old,” said Heather.

(credit: Heather Schichtel)

Samantha’s grandfather, Rick Simms, said “I think about what could have been.”

Samantha was sick from the start. She struggled to eat and had seizures. It was mitochondrial disease, a chronic genetic disorder that occurs when structures that produce energy for a cell malfunction.

“Slowly her body, it just… it was shutting down,” Heather told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Samantha couldn’t walk or talk. She spent many days in Children’s Hospital Colorado seeing 18 different specialists. There was no cure for her condition. She died a week after her fourth birthday.

“I was so devastated and I said, ‘I just don’t know what my life is going to mean anymore,'” said Heather.

Heather found courage. She started the Summits for Samantha cycling team to tackle the Courage Classic Bicycle Tour to raise money for the mitochondrial clinic and help fund clinical trials at Children’s Hospital.

“That’s what we do. We try to make it better,” said Rick, who is Heather’s father.

(credit: CBS)

They carry lions on their bicycles for “Sam the Lion-Hearted,” Rick’s nickname for his brave granddaughter. And Rick also cycles for his adult son, Ryan, who now has the same disease. Samantha’s picture is on the team jerseys and she is always there in spirit.

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“She gives me, still, this strength and this need to make a difference here,” said Heather.

The Summits for Samantha team has grown from eight to 83 members. They will ride on July 21 and 22 and hope to raise $150,000.

If you would like to donate :

  • Text “SUMMITS” to 27722 and click on Heather’s name to make a donation to her ride
  • Visit www.couragetours.org/donate, search for Summits for Samantha, and click on Heather’s name to donate

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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