The family of Deb Nepple held a unique fundraiser on Sunday, July 17. In just a few hours, they sold fresh cut sunflowers from the farm of Mark and Tami Nepple to anyone giving a donation to the St. Anthony Regional Cancer Center. Along with the sunflowers, many crafts, mostly handmade by Deb, were also sold for donations. Combined with t-shirt sales prior to the event, the Nepple’s were presented over $10,000 to Lori Pietig, Director of Cancer Services to be used towards future needs at the cancer center.
Mark Nepple noted, “A lot of people that stopped weren’t just family and friends this year. Many of them were personally touched by cancer and wanted to make a difference for others going through their own trials after diagnosis. One family had someone with pancreatic cancer and another had lost their daughter a few weeks after finding out she had cancer. They all felt the need to support locally and hearing about our event was a great way for them to come forward and make a donation.”
Their story that set up the idea of selling sunflowers began 21 years ago. In June of 2001, Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer after feeling a lump. After a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, she went into remission. Two years later, breast cancer was found on the opposite side. She had another lumpectomy and radiation and went into remission again. Since then, one of her sisters has also been diagnosed with breast cancer.
In the spring of 2003, Deb’s husband, Gene, was diagnosed with melanoma after removal of a suspicious looking mole. No additional treatment was needed at that time. In January of 2019, Gene was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He endured many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Scans determined the cancer had spread to his liver; therefore, surgery was not an option.
In January of 2020, Deb and Gene’s daughter, Sheryl, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Neither Deb nor Sheryl carry any of the known breast cancer genes. Sheryl had chemo, a double mastectomy and radiation and is currently in remission.
In June of 2020, it was decided that Gene needed hospice care. He courageously fought his battle with pancreatic cancer until September 9, 2020 when he passed away surrounded by his family.
In June of 2021, Deb found out that she had breast cancer again. She opted to have a double mastectomy and began radiation treatment under Dr. Randal Hess at the St. Anthony Regional Cancer Center.
It is said that in extended dark times, sunflowers turn to each other for light to survive. Through all of these experiences with cancer over the past 21 years, the Nepple family could not have gotten through these incredibly tough times had it not been for the support provided by their family and friends. Through this fundraiser, the Nepples believed they would continue to share their light and give all those fighting cancer hope.
Shown in the photo accepting the check from left are Sheryl, James, Elijah and Eliana Stampfli; Deb Nepple; Mark, Tami, Owen and Grant Nepple; Mike Nepple; Mandi Johnson