Charly Erpelding has already dealt with so many challenges in her young life, but she’s well on the road to recovery in her second bout with cancer.
Duck Creek Tire & Service, 4000 Middle Road, Bettendorf, is helping speed her vehicle, as it’s having a charity car show Saturday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) to raise money for the 17-year-old Bettendorf High student and her family, to offset their huge medical costs.
“Duck Creek Tire & Service has had a longstanding relationship with the Erpelding family, and we really do enjoy putting our money and efforts into the community that supports us,” Duck Creek general manager Keenan Hutcheson said Thursday.
“Charly’s story having fought this once already, only made us want to help more,” he said. “Generally, our car show is just a fun get-together and we try and work with charities throughout the year, but we knew others would want to get behind this cause and felt our show would be a great way to help out.”
Charly was 8 years old (in second grade at Hoover Elementary in Bettendorf) when she first battled Ewing’s Sarcoma and won. Unfortunately, after eight years – this past May — she had a recurrence of her bone cancer.
“It was so out of the blue,” her mother, Tara Erpelding, said Thursday. “She went to a student council blood drive, she passed out, woke up and her head was sore. She thought she hit her head when she passed out. She had a bump on her head and it didn’t go away. We took her to a doctor, and we thought it was a little cyst. With her history, they said we should probably have it checked. It was not a cyst.”
While Charly’s first bone cancer was in her chest and didn’t spread, this time it was on her skull (not attached to the brain) and she responded very well to chemotherapy, though the cancer had spread to her spine and pelvis, Tara said.
“It’s unheard of to come back eight years later,” she said, noting they chose a very aggressive form of chemo and radiation in Iowa City to treat it. Charly started chemo in early June and will start radiation on Monday.
“Our doctor stressed, while this is the all-in aggressive approach, nothing is a guarantee and there is no evidence he can give us that it will work, as much as he wants to give us that,” Tara posted July 8 on Facebook. “Our doc summed it up saying, you have an approach that is easier on the body, you can do it mostly at home, and it is believed it can give 1-2 years comfortably OR you have what he called the Hail Mary.
“You give it 100% you put all your big guns on it, you throw the absolute heck out of the ball and be ready in the end zone to catch that sucker. If you catch it you win the game, if you don’t….(I can’t speak or write about that — sorry still her Mom here and I can’t go there).
“He told us to think on it, he was sorry for the situation, and he would talk to us the next day about what we wanted to do. I don’t think he took one full step before Charly sat up a little taller in her bed and said loud and clear, ‘I want to do the Hail Mary.’ She didn’t consult with us, there was no big previous conversation leading up. This is just her and who she is.
“It’s character. It’s putting in the work and not taking the easy way. Andy and I didn’t even need to look at each other and at the same time we said we wanted the Hail Mary as well. Our doctor smiled and said, ok we’re doing the Hail Mary.
“I will never forget that moment as long as I live,” Tara wrote. “Andy and I are both 43 years old and that’s the day our child taught us how to never allow fear to impact making a difficult decision. That’s the day our daughter taught us what courage really is. She changed both of us in one sentence. She told us she would rather do the Hail Mary and even if it didn’t work at least she knows she tried.”
The next day, Charly received this inspiring Cameo video from Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Brett Favre. “Those of you who know us know we are a family of cheeseheads. To receive encouragement and prayer from a man definitely familiar with the Hail Mary was just awesome,” Tara wrote. The video (arranged by a friend who knows his manager) was a total surprise, she said Thursday.
After Charly’s chemo, all the cancer was gone except three small spots, her mom said. Charly also will get a stem-cell transplant from her own stem cells to boost recovery.
Tara posted Sept. 11 on Facebook that Charly was voted BHS homecoming queen the night before.
“It was a moment I know she will remember forever, as will Andy and I, because her smile was so genuinely happy. Charly’s senior class nominated her and 7 other amazing girls, and 8 awesome men to the homecoming court. It was such an honor and so much fun! They had a week of fun and spirited activities.
“The kids on this court (and their parents) are truly some of the nicest, most supportive people I’ve ever met. I can’t tell you how many times they checked in to make sure Charly was feeling ok, doing ok (what 17-year-olds think of that stuff?), was there anything she needed? These kids are real deal. Easily should be 8 queens and kings up there. Just love them all.”
Amazed at the community support
Tara and her husband – who also have a 15-year-old son, Will – have been amazed at both Charly’s attitude, courage and resilience, and the outpouring of community support from near and far.
“I have no idea, she is completely something different; she’s a different kind of being,” Tara said. “I don’t know how she does it. She’s stronger than we are, honest to God, we gravitate toward her. If we’re freaking out, Andy and I just want to be around her. We want to feel better; it makes us feel we can stop worrying, everything is fine.”
Charly and Will are very close but very different.
“She’s very talkative, outgoing, super funny — he’s the opposite, very quiet and doesn’t talk a lot,” Tara said. “They are like yin and yang, they fit really well together. He can’t visit her, because you have to be 18. They’ll FaceTime and text. She worries about him being home. Andy and I go back and forth (to Iowa City), and one of us stays with Will. She’s always like, ‘make sure to watch a movie with Will tonight.’ She’s so worried about him, and everybody else. It’s nice.”
She said the community support – which includes donations of $61,091 through GoFundMe – has been unreal.
“I thought it was unreal last time. This time, I don’t know, it’s crazy,” Tara said. “I’ve gone into HyVee, cried more in HyVee in the last three months, walking through. It’s overwhelming; people are so wonderful and kids, everybody.”
Charly has worked at Nothing Bundt Cakes (3020 E. 53rd St., Davenport) for over a year, and they recently donated a portion of their sales for her, raising over $6,000. Andy is friends with Ron Crist, owner of Duck Creek Tire & Service, who also is holding a blood drive Saturday.
“He’s an awesome guy. He just wanted to do something nice,” Tara said of Ron. “Charly, ever since everything happened, she has been overkill about giving as much blood as she’s gotten in transfusion. It’s been insane, she’s gotten so many transfusions, she’s up to over 10. She’s gotten a ton of them, because of chemo, which kills all the good cells and bad cells.
“She was trying to donate as much she could before, like with student council, she’d set up blood drives, donate as much as she could,” Tara said, noting Crist asked if they could host the blood drive – which Charly will attend but can’t donate this time.
“It’s that stuff that blows you away. That was super cool — that’s helping other people, not just about Charly,” Tara said. “The blood you donate here stays in the community. It’s just cool.”
You can donate funds to Charly at www.gofundme.com/f/cheerin-for-charly.
At Duck Creek Tire, the entry to the car show will cost $10 per vehicle. As always, there will be fun for the entire family with amazing cars, a bounce house for the kids and food for sale. Raffle tickets will be sold to win a set of Goodyear Tires.