Roc Solid gives kids hope

Published 1:12 am Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A child playing on his new swingset. A teenager enjoying her new, colorful, freshly painted bedroom. A mom that doesn’t have to leave her child’s side during one of the worst moments of her life.

These are the faces of hope to Eric Newman, a Western Branch resident who started the Roc Solid Foundation to help families affected by pediatric cancer.

“Even though we haven’t cured cancer, what Roc Solid allows these families to do is defeat cancer, even for a moment,” Newman said.

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He started the foundation in 2009, borne of the fruits of two tragedies rolled into one.

Olivia Castro plays on her new swingset after the Roc Solid Foundation worked with her family. (Submitted Photo)

“I’m a childhood cancer survivor,” Newman said. “When I was 3, I was diagnosed with liver cancer. They took out half of my liver and gave me a pretty slim chance of survival.”

But Newman beat the odds. He went on to graduate from Western Branch High School and started a landscape construction business.

But in 2008, the economy tanked and Newman lost his business. He decided there was no better time to start the foundation to help families like his had been when he was 3 years old.

The name Roc Solid came from a stuffed animal had when he was sick, personalized with his nickname, “E-rock.” When the gift was sterilized before being given to the ill Eric, the K fell off.

That animal later became the inspiration for the Roc Solid name.

“I put my hand over the E, and I saw ‘Roc,’” Newman said.

The foundation started out by selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The foundation sold $3,000 worth of doughnuts and built its first swingset for a child with cancer in Portsmouth. Since then, it has done more than 300 projects across the United States.

The foundation supports families through three major initiatives that carry them through every stage of the cancer journey.

A Roc Solid Foundation family member is excited upon seeing her new room. The foundation does room makeovers for older children and teens fighting cancer. (Submitted Photo)

First, the foundation’s ReadyBag program is there for families almost from the moment of diagnosis. The inspiration came from Newman’s own battle with cancer.

“I asked my mom what was the one thing she remembered on the day I was diagnosed,” Newman said. “She said my dad had to leave her on the worst day of her life to go pack a bag.”

Many pediatric cancer patients have to stay in the hospital when they are first diagnosed. Newman said the ReadyBag is a survival kit for the first 48 hours, featuring toiletries, pillows and blankets, a roll of quarters for the vending machine, tablets for the child and a parent and prepaid debit cards to eat out.

“No parent, no significant other, should be separated on the worst day of their life,” Newman said.

He has an optimistic goal of creating 16,000 ReadyBags in the next few years to place in every hospital in America. Why 16,000? That’s the approximate number of pediatric cancer diagnoses each year in the United States.

The foundation’s other program, Play It Forward, builds swingsets for kids up to age 8 and does room makeovers for cancer patients between 8 and 18.

“The first thing a child loses when they’re diagnosed with cancer is the ability to play,” Newman said.

The bedroom “is the first thing they see in the morning and last thing they see at night,” he said. “We want to build them up and create a safe haven.”

At the end of the family’s cancer journey, the final program of Roc Solid Foundation is No Mo’ Chemo, which throws the child and family a party to celebrate their last treatment. They get to choose whatever they want — one young cancer survivor requested a bounce house and macaroni-and-cheese pizza, Newman said.

Newman said his job is the most rewarding one he can think of.

“Just seeing that child come around the corner and see that swingset for the first time, that’s what hope looks like,” Newman said. “We allow these families to escape the reality of what they’re living in.”
Newman said volunteers are always welcome in the organization. For more information, visit