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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Hogs, heart and help: The beginning of The Shayla Bee Fund

Monday, September 21, 2009

Three years ago, when Jerry Faulkner, grandfather of Shayla Kaye Rohrbaugh, was working to establish a special fund to assist working class families with medical needs in his late grandchild's honor, he said, "...I hope it to be a legacy instead of just a one- or two-year thing."

To date, The Shayla Bee Fund has provided almost $30,000 to 21 families in the northwest Iowa region. Currently the group is working to create a 501c3 status.

Saturday, the motorcycle show and ride that prompted the development of Shayla Bee will hold court in the northeast corner of the Clay County Fairgrounds. A collection of between 150 to 200 motorcycles will rumble onto the grounds of the county fair around 11 a.m., and will park alongside a collection of classic, muscle, custom and hot rod vehicles from the 1970s and earlier for a motor vehicle showcase in honor of The Shayla Bee Fund.

"The first year was a benefit for Cody Gilmore," Faulkner said. "That was before the Shayla Bee Fund. That was in 2006. The Shayla Bee was an idea for a long time, but it was the Cody Gilmore fundraiser that kind of helped get it started. After that, I said, 'We've got to get this thing going."

A big part of the day is the Celebrity Ride. Between 12:45 and 1 p.m. Saturday, many of the bikes will transport a collection of area celebrities off of the fairgrounds for a quick tour of the Spencer area, then return to the grounds. The route will take the bike riders and their guests west to the west bypass, then back to the south-T. The motorcycles will travel north on Grand Avenue and back to the fairgrounds. The ride has become an annual event at the fair.

Faulkner said that the money donated to families is to be used for whatever the family wishes to use it for.

"Once we determine they are responsible working class families with a child in medical crisis, we give them the money unconditionally to use as needed. We think they know what they need to use it for better than we do.

A family last month had a child in Alta that is terminal. All he wanted to do was go to the zoo. That's what they needed to do -- take him to the zoo."

While there is a group of local volunteers who take part in most of the organization and planning, Faulkner said the number of "volunteers" is large.

"We have over 400 supporters and at different times, people help us in different ways. Everybody that does anything -- from coming out to an event, to donating, to helping spread the word -- this thing is so grass roots, you own a little bit of the Shayla Bee Fund. It's everybody's thing."

Shayla Kaye Rohrbaugh was diagnosed with Schizencephaly, a rare developmental disorder characterized by abnormal clefts in the brain's cerebral hemisphere, the Spencer girl lived life one day at a time and outlived her estimated life expectancy by several years when she died Jan. 8, 2005.

"When we went out to find a place to bury Shayla, there is a little children's section in Riverside (Cemetery). We walked through it and there were four or five unmarked gravesites. I got to thinking at that time that it's just a shame families have to go through this kind of thing and not have the resources to even put a gravestone on their babies' graves," recalled Faulkner.

The concept behind the Shayla Bee Fund evolved one year later, when national champion motocross competitor Cody Gilmore, the son of Gary "Tator" and Mel Gilmore, was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. Faulkner remembers heading to The Oasis to visit with owners Chris and Kim Rand about the possibility of doing a benefit for Gilmore and his family.

"Before I could even bring it up, he brought it up to me," Faulkner said of Chris Rand.

The "Gilmore Family Bike Show," which featured approximately 100 motorcycles, was held in response the last Saturday of the 2006 Clay County Fair on the fairgrounds. Over $5,000 was collected through a free-will offering.

Following the September 2006 bike show, Faulkner remembers the thought coming to mind while he was driving back to Spencer from Sioux Falls that "we should have done that in Shayla's name and we didn't, because that's exactly why we did it."

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