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Iron Station car show benefits Harlan’s Heroes

Classic cars at a previous Harlan’s Heroes event.

Staff Writer

Abide-A-While Acres in Iron Station hosted the second annual Harlan’s Heroes Hot Rod Happening on Saturday to raise money for families battling pediatric cancer.

The car show is a fundraising event in support of the Harlan’s Heroes nonprofit organization that was founded in 2015 following the death of 3-year-old Harlan Sullins, who passed away following a battle with an ependymoma — a rare brain tumor — that lasted nearly two years.

“We originally did car events at the Come-See-Me festival when Harlan was living to try and raise money and awareness back then,” said event organizer Mitzi Patton, who owns Abide-A-While acres and is a friend of the Sullins family. “After he passed we decided to change it up and have our own event at our place so that we can grow it and do what we want with it instead of attaching it to another public event. At the heart of it all is Harlan and we just want to continue to help families who are going through similar situations.”

Harlan was diagnosed with an ependymoma, a rare brain tumor that eventually took away his ability to walk, play and express himself verbally, in February 2013 at the age of two. He fought through his original diagnosis, a relapse, multiple surgeries, 66 radiation treatments and four cycles of chemotherapy before passing away in October 2014.

“He was so young at 26 months when he was diagnosed, so I’m not 100 percent sure that he really knew what life was like prior to being sick,” Harlan’s mother Jacki Sullins said. “He was resilient in the fact that he knew no different and he had to push through. At 26 months he had only been walking for maybe a year, but when he was first diagnosed he quit walking so he had to relearn how to walk. Then when he relapsed he quit walking and he was in the process of learning how to walk again before he passed away. He never gave up and even in his final moments my husband and I had to tell him that it was okay and that he didn’t have to fight anymore. He knew absolutely no different and he always had a smile on his face. He was always trying to make somebody laugh and that was just his personality. He had a way of pulling people in. There was just something about his spirit and his presence.”

The Sullins family established Harlan’s Heroes in 2015 to spread awareness and aid those affected by pediatric cancer, with an emphasis on recurring and terminal brain cancer. Their mission is to provide entire families with help, hope and care.

“When Harlan was first diagnosed there were a lot of grants available through foundations for newly diagnosed cases, but he very quickly relapsed and never even made it into remission,” Sullins said. “When we reached back out to foundations for help after the relapse, they couldn’t help us because they had just helped us and there were very few if any organizations that helped in the case of a relapse. That’s why we want to help those families who are going back through the battle a second time with our foundation. We pride ourselves on not being a cookie-cutter organization. We don’t just write a family a check and wish them luck. We try to be there throughout the whole entire process. We try to do anything that we can that will enable a family to be a family for as long as possible.”

To date, Harlan’s Heroes has helped 12 families and hundreds more through volunteer work in hospitals. The nonprofit has funded trips for sick children to go to the beach and also to New York City to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree.

Last year, the inaugural Harlan’s Heroes Hot Rod Happening featured 40 vehicles in the car show and raised approximately $1,000 for the charity.

Those who would like to donate to Harlan’s Heroes can do so by visiting the organization’s website at www.harlansheroes.com or by mailing a donation to 1646 West Highway 160, PMB 8190, Fort Mill, South Carolina 29708.

Image courtesy of Contributed

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