SYCAMORE – Billy Cho’s United Tae Kwon Do Center in Sycamore was packed on Friday with people lining up to break boards.
It was all part of an effort to help the family of Tyler Neppl, an 8-year-old boy with neurofibromatosis, a hereditary, progressive genetic disorder which causes tumors to grow on nerves.
Participants broke boards for $2 each to pay for the Neppl family’s medical bills.
Dozens of people, even those who didn’t know Tyler, attended the fundraiser from as far away as Wisconsin.
“This is overwhelming,” said Shaun Neppl, Tyler’s father. “Sometimes, you wonder about living in a small community like this, but ... this is what the community will do. They come together.”
Tyler gets weekly chemotherapy shots to try to stop the growth of his tumors or shrink them.
He has one tumor from his knee to ankle on one of his legs, one in the center of his brain and another in his eye.
Every six to eight weeks, Tyler goes to a hospital in downtown Chicago for an MRI and has bloodwork done to see if he should continue chemotherapy.
Despite all of the hospital visits, nearly everyone who knows Tyler said he’s a happy boy.
“He’s an amazing child and student,” said Kathy Spiewak, Tyler’s principal at North Elementary School. “He always has a smile on his face, no matter what happens.”
There is no cure for neurofibromatosis. Tyler is the only one in his family with the disorder.
Rachel Juarez, office manager of the tae kwon do center, helped organize the event because Tyler is one of her students. He is currently a third rank orange belt.
“This little boy’s going through a lot,” she said. “It’s hard enough being a child these days. We wanted to rally around him and support him. He’s great, and he’s loved.”
Erik Books, 10, is one of Tyler’s friends. He said he plays with Tyler and Tyler’s older brother, Carter, almost every day.
“I’m there so much Tyler thinks of me as his brother,” he said. “We go in his basement and play [PlayStation 3], and we play football outside.”
Jeff Fischer of Sycamore knows Tyler through a friend.
He attended the fundraiser with his son.
“You’re always thankful your kids are healthy, but you’ve got to help others, even when it’s not a holiday like Thanksgiving,” he said.
To help the Neppl family, donate to the Tyler Neppl Benefit Fund at National Bank and Trust, 1425 DeKalb Ave., Sycamore.