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How a Family Transformed Adversity into Optimism – Plus a Trip to Ocean City

While life often presents grueling challenges, few understand trauma and adversity like Jennifer Thomas and her family. Thomas, who currently resides in West Virginia, has faced recent health struggles and significant loss in her family. Despite these obstacles, Thomas remains upbeat and optimistic in her outlook on life. After her recent experiences, she is ready to relish every second she has left. This summer, Thomas will travel to Ocean City and see the ocean for the first time, all while making memories that last forever.

To many people, especially those living on the East Coast, a trip to the beach seems quite ordinary and routine every summer. However, for Thomas, who has lived in Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado, and now, West Virginia, a trip to a spot such as Ocean City is rare. This July, Thomas and her family will spend a week in Ocean City. The vacation is not only one they look forward to, but one that they need.

Challenges of a Lifetime

Last year, she underwent routine surgery but had severe complications after a doctor’s mistake. She was flown to a trauma one hospital to save her life and persevered through four surgeries in just five days. She woke up ten days later and began to recover, though she recognizes that the mistake almost turned fatal.

Her daughter, who passed away in a car accident seven years ago, planned to become an equine therapist. She had a love for horses, wanted to be more than just a ‘showgirl,’ and hoped to help troubled teens and suffering veterans. After her death, her mother began to develop seizures. In one instance, she experienced such a severe seizure that she almost lost her life.

These two near-death experiences frightened her son, Tavian, and showed him that it is time to start living life with his family to the fullest.

“We Want to Make Memories”

After years of hardship, Jennifer Thomas is anxious to soak up the sun and live a worry-free life. Still, she radiates positivity and has a view of life to which many should aspire. “We want to make memories. I’m not getting any younger, and with all the trauma we’ve faced, it’s been hard,” she reflected. “My health isn’t going to get miraculously better, and after everything we’ve been through, we haven’t sat back and taken a breath of air and just relaxed for once. We want to go sit on the beach and take it all in. We have to enjoy our time together that God has given us.”

Why Ocean City, Maryland?

While Ocean City is one of the hottest vacation spots around, it is certainly not the most exotic destination. However, Thomas believes the resort town is the perfect fit. She says her son, who works for a company almost like “Home Depot on steroids,” asked around on the job and received many recommendations for none other than OCMD!

“Ocean City will be relaxing for me, and they said there is something there for all age groups and all families. We will have a wonderful time and saw there were things for both of us to do together and things he could go do on his own. We will both be having a good time.”

The family became so interested that now Tavian’s girlfriend and numerous family members will also take part in the trip.

Living in the Country and Seeing the Ocean for the First Time

For Thomas, Ocean City will be quite the aesthetic change. Thomas grew up in a farming community in Nebraska and spent time around the Midwest, which she calls flyover country. In these small towns, everyone knows everyone and is kind and caring, in the ideals of the ‘farmer way.’ Life is quite different across the country, especially from the more urban East Coast.

After living in the plains and then in the Rocky Mountains, Thomas has seen lots of natural beauty in the United States. However, she has yet to see the sparkling blue ocean. That will all change this summer when Thomas hits the sand and gazes at the water. For people living on the coasts, it is easy to take the water for granted, but the view of the ocean is a sight Thomas will never forget.

“You see things on T.V., but to actually get out into the world and see things live is so amazing. I’ve never seen a dolphin or a crab. I’d love to take a boat ride and get the smell of some real ocean air,” she explained. “I don’t know what that’s like. It’s the air, the animals, the culture, and the history – things I want to see, feel, and smell. People on the East Coast might take that for granted, but we never get to see this stuff.”

The Itinerary

At the end of July, the family will arrive for a weeklong stay at the Hyatt. As for their itinerary, history is undoubtedly at the top of their vacation wish list. Thomas and her family love to learn about the past and plan to visit the Ocean City Life Saving-Station Museum at the inlet. In addition, they hope to visit sites surrounding the stories of Harriet Tubman and John Wilkes Booth on the way down from West Virginia.

The Ocean City Boardwalk

“I’ve watched a lot of great videos about the Ocean City Boardwalk, and I saw that Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum is there. We plan on going to the museums because it’s so neat, and the East Coast has so much history we’ve never had the chance to explore before,” Thomas said. “We want to find places that we’ve never explored. I’ve got to get out there and enjoy this stuff now while I can before I’m too old.”

Most importantly, the family will travel to Assateague Island to see the wild ponies that wander all across the area. For Thomas, it will have a special meaning. Seeing the ponies, which her daughter loved and believed could have a real positive impact, will make it feel as though she is also part of the vacation. This paramount and heart-warming connection will be a great sign of hope for a brighter future.

“She had such a passion for horses and thought wild horses were one of the most beautiful things,” she added. “I told my son that I wanted to go see the ponies because it will still be a full family vacation for all of us.”

What’s Next?

During the family’s trip in July, they will keep OceanCity.com updated on their exciting vacation. Follow along for photos during the summer.

Although this particular story is unique to Jennifer Thomas, the need for relaxation after difficult challenges is universal. Never hesitate to take a breather, and book your next stay in Ocean City, Maryland!

Logan Dubel
Logan Dubel
Logan Dubel is a contributor for OceanCity.com and the host of "This Week in Ocean City." He is a Baltimore County native, Franklin High School graduate, and an undergraduate journalism and media student at the University of Texas at Austin. He joined the OceanCity.com team in June 2020. On the shore, he has also served as a writer at the Art League of Ocean City and the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum. Logan has a strong passion for covering the news and its impact on Marylanders. Since arriving at OceanCity.com, he has covered the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, interviewed newsmakers including former First Lady Yumi Hogan, Mayor Rick Meehan, and members of the City Council, featured local businesses, and covered local events. As a collegiate journalist, Logan also works as a Life and Arts Reporter for The Daily Texan and an anchor/reporter for Texas Student Television. Most recently, he anchored live coverage of the 2022 Midterm Elections and reported from the CMT Music Awards Red Carpet. Have a story idea? Contact logan@oceancity.com.

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