Benefit slated for boy battling brain cancer
‘Glamper’ to be raffled during Oct. 14 event
PARKERSBURG — Eli Clark is 13 years old. He should be in class at Hamilton Middle School. He’s not.
Eli has for almost the last year battled brain cancer. CNS neuroblastoma is the medical term.
According to cancer.gov., it is a rare type of neuroblastoma which forms in the nerve tissue of the cerebrum, or the layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord.
Signs of an illness started appearing during rehearsals during the Parkersburg Actors Guild production of “Scrooge.” Eli’s role was one of the Cratchit family children. Momma Cratchit was portrayed by Lori Conley Yeater. Her daughter, Ellie, was Eli’s sister. The Clark family and Yeater family became “family” as they rehearsed to be family.
Eli’s brothers, Caleb and Josiah, were also in the production.
“Eli lost 17 pounds during the month of December,” said Eli’s mother Karen. “They said the cancer, from the size of it, formed approximately six weeks previous, which would have put it right around the end of ‘Scrooge.’ We thought he had the flu. He was throwing up some and having headaches. We just kept him isolated until show time.”
On Jan. 17 they made a trip to Columbus to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Eli had not gotten better. Images from CAT and MRI scans accompanied them. Eli was admitted immediately. The tumor was aggressive. It was growing fast.
“We went to Columbus to what we thought was just a doctor’s appointment,” said Karen. “He had an MRI made at 2:30 p.m. At 11:30 p.m. the same day, we’re getting ready for surgery the next day. He’s in surgery from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 a.m. the next day. That’s 22 hours of surgery. It was from the top of his head and down his spine.”
Sitting in the Yeater yard was another camper waiting to be remade; Glamper 2.0 if you would like to call it that.
Glamper 2.0 is one of the extreme fundraisers scheduled for the Eli Clark Benefit at Parkersburg High School’s Memorial Fieldhouse Oct. 14. All money raised from the day goes to the family to pay medical bills and expenses. Lori said more than 200 of the 500 printed tickets have been sold.
“We had bought the camper during ‘Scrooge’,” Lori said, “and Ellie thought about selling for profit before we found out about the illness. She came to me and wanted to give the money to Eli to pay for treatment.”
“We first met in Guild Builders,” Ellie said of Eli. “We got super close, though, when we were in ‘Scrooge.’ He was my brother and he was always causing laughter. It was a big shock when we heard about the illness.
“But even now, his personality still shines through,” she continued. “He can communicate a lot of different ways; hand signals and facial expressions. He just can’t talk. Well, not very often and then it’s usually just a few words and then he will go for days without saying another word.”
Ellie sits with Eli during a visit. Ellie does the talking but Eli moves the top of his hand under his chin and smiles. Ellie laughs. She says it’s one of his hand signals for “I’m adorable.”
“We were always in rehearsals together,” Lori said. “He became my bonus son. It became a family experience.”
Eli was hospitalized, with the exception of four weeks, for seven months. When he came home Aug. 10, the ambulance he arrived in was given a police escort from the Route 47 Park N Ride by the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, according to Karen.
“Karen has been so strong through all this,” Lori said. “Me, as a mom, she has impressed me. Her faith, her grace, she has shown strength I didn’t know she had.”
Today, Eli sits upright at the Clarks’ Mongtomery Hill Road home. A feeding tube flows nutrition beneath his shirt as he continues to improve. Karen said he’s hooked up to the pole 24/7. Karen said Eli is starting to be able to drink water. She also said he is defying what doctors had predicted for him.
The Clarks have returned from Eli’s trip to Walt Disney World with the Make a Wish Foundation. He says “The Haunted Mansion” was his favorite ride. It was one of the few words he would say for a while.
“They took extra special care of him,” Karen said of Make A Wish. “They paid for the rental of a van to get us there and hotel rooms there and back.
“Disney had a special pass for us to bypass the lines,” Karen said. “Eli wanted to go everywhere and do everything.”
There was one surprise they weren’t counting on.
“There was a lady who came toward us saying ‘Eli! Eli! Is that you? I heard you were coming!’ We didn’t know who she was but she knew Eli.” It was former Parkersburg Actors Guild member and Disney employee Melody Carson, who had come to greet him. “She made him feel so very special,” Karen said.
Karen said she hoped to have Eli at the Oct. 14 event, “even if it’s just for a little while. We had him to a Hamilton football game this week and he went to church twice last Sunday.”
The family attends the Sunrise Church of Christ. Karen said it hasn’t been only Sunrise which has stepped up for the family. “Area churches have stepped up in some form or fashion. I’ve told doctors ‘you don’t know how many people are praying for him. Don’t tell us something can’t be done.’
“I’ve watched nurses do CPR on him,” she said. “He coded on the first seizure he had at Nationwide Children’s Hosptal. He was on life support for two days,” she said. “He’s actually had three seizures, all during his chemo. I have a baby monitor in his room so I can hear him at night. His blood counts are all good right now.”
“Karen has been so strong,” said Lori. “One, simply as a mom. They were still having to pay the bills, her husband was still having to go to work and Caleb and Josiah were still having to go to school through all this.
“Eli’s a good kid,” said Lori. “They’re a good family with high character; God-fearing and God loving. Their family has just descended upon them and lifted them up. They’re a humble family. They live large heart wise, not money wise.”