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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 22, 2017

Fairfax car show helps family fund epilepsy research

By By Makayla Tendall, The Gazette | Oct 04, 2017

FAIRFAX — In 2010, after he was diagnosed with lung cancer, Leon Evans started a cruise-in car show in his yard in Fairfax.

Evans had been drag racing since he was a teenager, said Jacob Houser, his grandson. He also had a lifelong interest in cars and an immaculate, all-original GTO, bought new in 1964.

“He decided he was going to go down fighting and start a car show,” Jacob said. “We carried that on. He knew everybody and everybody would just go out there to talk to him and ‘B.S.’ ”

That first show, in 2010, had more than 120 cars parked in Evans’ driveway, some dating back to the 1940s. He also supplied food and music. Evans died two years later, but attendees weren’t willing to give the show up, said Kathy Houser — Evans’ daughter and Jacob’s mother.

This year, Kathy said organizers expect more than 400 cars. The show takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Fairfax Sports Complex, 625 Linn St. Admission is free.

For the last four years, the cruise-in has become much more impactful for the family as a way to give back to the University of Iowa Foundation’s Epilepsy Research Program, which they say changed Jacob’s life.

At age 3, Jacob began suffering from a type of epilepsy that is difficult to detect, Kathy said. When he seized, he would blackout for five to seven minutes, and it happened about 20 times a day, Jacob added.

“My life wasn’t there,” Jacob said. “When I’d wake up, I’d feel like I had a hangover.”

And because Jacob didn’t have grand-mal seizures where he would shake, it was difficult to get a diagnoses. Even school officials didn’t believe he had epilepsy, Kathy said.

The family had been to a children’s hospital in Milwaukee and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Regular detection methods weren’t picking up the part of Jacob’s brain — in his occipital lobe — that was triggering the seizures. Doctors went as far as to encourage Jacob to see a psychologist because they didn’t think Jacob’s condition was real, Kathy said.

Finally, when Jacob was 17 he was seen at the University of Iowa where they were able to detect Jacob’s epilepsy and operate on his brain to stop the seizures.

“We had been to so many places,” Kathy said. “I can’t believe we went through all that, and I’m still alive to talk about it.”

Because the family had gotten to know Jacob’s team of UI doctors so well and knew they continue conducting research on other types of epilepsy, donations and proceeds from a raffle during the car show are given to the Epilepsy Research Program.

Last year, the Housers donated $4,800.

And Jacob, now 23, is progressing without epilepsy slowing him down, but it hasn’t been easy, Kathy said.

“He has bore the scars of feeling like he doesn’t fit in, and he’s just now starting to work through that stuff that kids work through as teenagers,” Kathy said. “It seems like his interests seem to be also into cars. I think (the car show has) given him something to socialize about. It gives him a purpose.”

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