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Compassionate Competition

September 6, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Compassionate Competition
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

Two Sioux Falls families who usually compete in business are coming together to increase awareness about becoming a bone marrow donor.

Both the Spaders and Schaaps have been personally affected by a disease where a bone marrow transplant was needed. That's why they're encouraging that people become part of the national bone marrow donor registry.

Six-year-old Rebekah Spader has been spending a lot of time indoors this summer, but her real love is the outdoors.

"Fishing, hunting," Rebekah said.

But Rebekah has been forced to limit her time outdoors and around other people after being diagnosed with MDS, a disorder that could develop into leukemia. Rebekah needs a bone marrow transplant.

"This is a life-saving issue. If the bone marrow transplant doesn't work, she will die," Rebekah's dad Tony Spader said.

In an unusual twist the Spaders, who own Spader's RV Center in Sioux Falls, are teaming up with their competitors this weekend to raise awareness about becoming a bone marrow donor.

"We just decided that when it comes to something like that we can't be competitors. It's a time to come together and support each other," Rachelle Schaap said.

Rachelle Schaap, who's a co-owner of Schaaps RV Traveland, is also a cousin to Kerry Lamfers, whose husband, Rodney, also had MDS and received a transplant in 2009. Unfortunately, he died after a relapse last year.

"We didn't get the earthly healing through the transplant.  But what we got was an entire year and all the moments and days no one can ever take away from us.  And we are very grateful for our donor for giving life to him for that additional year and a half," Lamfers said.

Lamfers is also thankful the two competitors have formed a new connection.

The Schaaps recently traveled to Israel and brought along what they call "Rebekah's cross" to several religious areas. When they returned, the cross became a gift for Rebekah.

"We've been through a lot as a family. I have three young daughters. They're 13, 12 and eight right now and becoming a widow at 37-years-old and raising my daughters on my own is very difficult," Lamfers said.

"It's tough. There are days I just sit and watch her. In fact, yesterday she had a friend over who was playing with her, and I sat for ten minutes and watched them play and thought, 'I wonder if this is going to end or if in 20 years from now I'll think back to this moment,'" Tony said.

For now, they're moments that help both families look forward to a brighter future.

"You wanted to go to school and be able to play with friends. What else? Swimming, yes swimming," Tony said.

They're simple activities that could be possible through the simple act of registering to be a bone marrow donor.

The families will have a booth set up at Sertoma Park on Sunday morning during the Sioux Falls Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5-K race. You can sign up for the national bone marrow registry there or on the National Bone Marrow Program website.

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