Attending the reveal of the 2016 MX-5 Miata and the subsequent 25th anniversary celebration at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca confirmed that the little roadster maintains broad appeal, one not limited to the elderly or a certain gender as detractors might have you believe. In fact, the assembled crowd was surprisingly youthful, particularly amongst the club racer set and tuners. But one young Miata owner and superfan unfortunately wasn't in attendance – Thomas Jost, 19, was busy fighting for his life in a Maryland hospital.
When Thomas' illness made it impossible for him to drive, he relied on friends to do it for him.
Sadly, it was a years-long battle he lost on Saturday afternoon.
Thomas, a Cleveland, OH-area teen, was at Maryland's National Institutes of Health for treatment as part of his ongoing battle with a rare auto-immune disease known as Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis – the same genetic affliction that led to his mother's death when Thomas was four years old. Experimental treatments related to CMC would eventually weaken his immune system, making him susceptible to a virus that led to his passing.
Thomas was a diehard MX-5 fan. I know this because my son, Nate, counted Thomas among his best friends. Thomas' Mariner-Blue 1991 NA MX-5 was his first car, and my son describes him as "obsessed" with everything about his self-described "Smurfin' Miata." With the help of family and friends including my son, he not only customized the suspension, wheels and stereo on his Mazda, he eventually executed an automatic to manual transmission swap in his garage. He was also a member of the Autoblog community, often stealing away bits of time to read this website during his classes in high school. He was also an enthusiastic member of the Ohio Miata Owner's Association.
When his illness made it impossible for him to get behind the wheel because his body was too weak to cooperate, Thomas relied on his friends to drive him around in his car, often with no particular destination in mind. Knowing how much Thomas loved his car and in light of how low it sat to the ground, driving his car for him was a nerve-wracking experience.
Thomas' friends have initiated a GoFundMe campaign to defray medical and funeral costs, and you can help.
That this young man was often spotted in matching blue attire was no accident. A few months ago, Thomas' sister went so far as to get a tattoo of her brother's Miata, a gesture of both tribute and solidarity. My son will join Thomas' other friends and family at his wake and funeral later this week, with some wearing matching Miata-blue and purple ties (purple being Thomas' favorite color).
Years of expensive treatments and hospital stays have understandably taken their financial toll on Thomas' family, especially his father, who took the last three months off of work to be by his son's side. His friends and the local Miata community initiated a GoFundMe crowdsourced assistance campaign to help defray the costs of Thomas' illness before he passed away, and now the funds received will go to help pay for the funeral and medical bills.
Our thoughts are with Thomas' family and friends during this difficult time.