Little Black Hills Battles

Little Black Hills Battles Logo

Little Black Hills Battles is a recognition of Monument Health’s Pediatric patients who bravely fight childhood illness and disease every day right here in our community. Donations through Monument Health’s Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) program are devoted to helping these children. All funds stay local.

Little Black Hills Battles 5K Run/Walk

Register Now!

Saturday, September 9, 2023
Old Storybook Island | 2911 Canyon Lake Drive, Rapid City

10 a.m.: Registration
10:30 a.m.: Walk Begins

Registration is free and all ages are welcome.

The Little Black Hills Battles 5K Walk/Run will showcase local kids and the brave battles they have and continue to endure. Join us for a celebration following the walk with music, food trucks, bubbles and more!

Donations through Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) are devoted to helping these children. Opportunities for donations will be available at the event.


Before her first birthday, Starla Thunder Hawk was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure from pneumonia and required Pediatric Critical Care at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital. Starla was on a breathing machine called a ventilator for 21 days, during which time her heart stopped beating and she experienced cardiac arrest. The caregivers treating her performed compressions and through their resuscitation efforts, Starla pulled through. 

During Starla’s stay at Monument Health, part of her right lung collapsed — the air in the small passages had been replaced with fluid. This left her with scarring of her right lung. Despite this she was able to be taken off the ventilator and placed on oxygen through a tube called a nasal canula, and eventually removed from oxygen completely. 

Despite being hospitalized for a month during her first year of life, Starla is a happy toddler who enjoys playing with her big sister Jimi, going for walks with her family and learning to crawl.


At age 15, Sam Biberdorf was in a serious car accident in which he suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was unconscious for 11 days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Rapid City Hospital — during which time he was unable to regulate his body temperature and was continuously moving despite not being awake. Sam required a feeding tube placement during his unconscious state but his constant movement led to complications that required surgery to rectify. 

Once Sam had opened his eyes, EEGs verified that he was experiencing brain activity! As he woke more, he qualified for rehab and was transferred to the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb. There, he was evaluated for occupational, physical and speech therapy. Sam had to relearn everything — how to speak, how to eat and how to walk and talk. Everything he knew was still in his mind, but he had to learn how to access the information, knowledge and skills all over again. 

These challenges didn’t stop Sam, who developed the personal mantra, “I can, I will. Watch me.” His positivity served him well. He was able to come home to Rapid City, and continue his rehabilitation at Monument Health Orthopedics and Specialty Hospital. Soon he was able to return to the things that he loves — school, running, lifting and wearing fun and silly socks.

Though Sam was unconscious for most of his stay at Rapid City Hospital, he made a huge impact on the nurses in the Pediatric department. He even shared his love of silly socks with them and brought them socks as gifts when he came back from rehab and visited the floor.


After a smooth pregnancy and a great delivery, Jack Welfl gained a reputation as the fussy baby in Labor and Delivery. After bringing him home, his parents Liz and Kade noticed that he just always seemed upset. Unsatisfied with an initial diagnosis of colic, the Welfls pursued more testing, and at five and a half months old, his primary care physician discovered that Jack’s brain had not formed properly in utero — the cells in his brain didn’t develop where they needed to, causing his brain to develop differently. The cause of his condition is not fully known but is suspected to be a rare genetic condition that may be unique to Jack. As a result of this, he has visual impairments, global developmental delay, meaning it takes Jack longer to reach developmental milestones than it does other children, and infantile spasms — a type of seizure that can be detrimental to brain development. Because of that risk, his medical team acted quickly to get his seizures under control. 

Jack remains on medication for his seizures in addition to medication for other aspects of his condition. Jack has been cared for at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for respiratory distress related to viral illnesses and has fought his way through some tough times. He is the happiest boy, even on days when you can tell he doesn’t feel well. He takes everything like a champ and is always up for snuggles with mom or dad. 

Jack is a sweet boy, known as Jack-Jack by caregivers. Despite being non-verbal, he actively communicates with others through sound and movement. He loves music and enjoys being sung to. He also loves counting, which is very calming to him. Unlike many kids his age, Jack loves to brush his teeth and go to school. He also enjoys swimming, especially as it gets warmer, and isn’t shy about letting anyone know how happy he is.


Raylan Murphy is a playful 9-year-old boy who was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot with absent pulmonary valve. This rare birth defect affects the flow of blood through the heart. Additionally, Raylan receives nutrition through a feeding tube because his airway was too narrow and collapsed — he previously required a tracheostomy tube to assist with breathing for six years. 

Raylan was also born without his left kidney, which means he must stay well-hydrated, and his parents must be alert to any medications that can affect the kidneys. He is also immunocompromised, so anytime he gets sick — even if it’s just a common cold — it’s likely he will need a hospital stay for nebulizer treatments and supplemental oxygen. Raylan has had his fair share of hospital admissions to the Pediatric Unit at Rapid City Hospital, mostly for respiratory concerns, and has had many cardiac surgeries. 

Raylan is developmentally delayed but he is incredibly happy and friendly, and loves making others smile. He enjoys being with his little sister, spending time outside and music and dancing. His favorite places to be are at the lake or the beach, and he loves helping to reel in the day’s catch when his family goes fishing.


Brandon was born in 2005 with an inherited disorder called Bruton’s Disease. This condition, which occurs most often in boys, prevents the body from producing antibodies — the body’s defense against bacteria and viruses. 

The treatment for Bruton’s Disease is monthly intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIG, infusions in order to bolster the immune system. IVIG is a therapy that is prepared using the antibodies taken from donated plasma, and cannot be produced synthetically. It can take thousands of healthy donors to generate enough antibodies for each treatment. Brandon has been coming to the Pediatric Unit at Rapid City Hospital for his IVIG treatments once a month since he was 5 years old. 

Brandon knows his condition comes with risks, but he’s adamant that others have it worse — he’s a positive young man, and is very easy going about needing monthly infusions. Like many teenagers his age, he enjoys playing video games, but also loves fishing, hunting and bowling.


Brynlee Palmer was a little girl with a big personality, who was born with a rare genetic disorder that affected most of the systems in her body. Because of this, she had more than 15 surgeries on her eyes, GI tract, spine and other areas. She was also hard of hearing and required the use of hearing aids. Brynlee was developmentally delayed and had to be fed by tube.

She was hospitalized many times, and everyone in the Rapid City Hospital Pediatric Unit enjoyed spending time around this special girl. Brynlee received one of her ear surgeries at Monument Health, as well as emergency adjustment of her feeding tube. 

Brynlee lived much longer than physicians believed she would, and she was loved by everyone who knew her. She loved light-up toys and Christmas lights, and enjoyed lying by the tree and gazing up at the lights. Her favorite place to be however, was on her uncle’s boat and floating on the lake.


Remi Brunson was four months old when she was first admitted to the Monument Health Pediatrics Unit for rhinovirus. Her parents suspected that she had something more severe, and after two and a half weeks she was diagnosed with LAMA2 Muscular Dystrophy, a rare congenital early onset form of muscular dystrophy. Symptoms of LAMA2 are apparent at birth or within the first few months of age, and present as severe muscle weakness and lack of muscle tone. Due to her muscular dystrophy Remi was admitted to the Monument Health Pediatrics Unit numerous times for different respiratory illnesses. She worked hard at regular occupational and physical therapy appointments, always spreading smiles at each appointment. 

Sadly, Remi passed away on Jan. 29, 2023. Despite the challenges she faced, she had a contagious smile and spread joy everywhere she went. She loved animals, especially horses, and participated in the Special Rodeo just one week before she passed. It was an event that brought her a great deal of joy. 

Remi will be remembered as a gift to those who knew her. She shared kindness, joy and love with everyone she met, and she will forever be an inspiration to love without limits. 


Tristin Davison was a fun-loving kid who enjoyed racing BMX bikes and cared deeply for animals — rescuing any animals that he happened to come across. 

Sadly, Tristin lost his life to an accidental gunshot wound. His family made the difficult decision to donate his organs so that others could live. He stayed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital awaiting his organ donation procedure, where he and his family were treated with kindness, warmth and compassion by the PICU nurses. 

Tristin’s life was cut tragically short, but he was a hero to five other families, each of which was able to keep a loved one thanks to Tristin’s organ donation, including a 1-year-old child.

2022 Battlers


Wilder Little Black Hills Battles


Wilder was born three months early on January 19, 2021, via emergency c-section after his mom, Samaya, had a gut-feeling she should go get him checked at the local hospital. Wilder was immediately delivered and flown to Monument Health where he was diagnosed with a rare chromosomal disorder, 3P Deletion syndrome. By the time he was one month old, he was also diagnosed with hydrocephalus (an abnormal fluid buildup within the brain). He was later also diagnosed with three heart defects – atrial septal defect (ASD), patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and mild pulmonary valve stenosis (PS). He underwent two major surgeries; one to place a shunt for his hydrocephalus and the other for a feeding tube. Following Wilder’s release from the NICU in April, he had numerous hospital stays at Monument Health. Due to his existing diagnoses, he was susceptible to rhinovirus, which landed him back in the hospital almost monthly as his little body had trouble fighting it. When Wilder was 11 months old, he caught a cold and had concerningly low oxygen levels. He passed away on December 1. Wilder’s parents, Samaya and Tanner are very grateful to the numerous caregivers who helped their son and the compassion they showed him. Wilder loved cuddles, holding somebody’s finger, car rides and Christmas lights. Although Wilder’s time on earth was short, he had an immeasurable impact on those who loved him.


Lolita Little Black Hills Battles


Lolita was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, an excess amount of fluid around her brain, when her mom Kimberly was 20 weeks pregnant. She was born deaf at 37 weeks and was diagnosed with cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common virus with effects that range from asymptomatic to severe end organ dysfunction. In Lolita’s case, it caused brain damage. Calcification formed in her brain that is fatal to remove and it led to a cerebral palsy diagnosis at 3 months old. At 15 months, she was diagnosed with epilepsy after she started having petit mal seizures. Lolita also has scoliosis and is hypertonic, which means that her body is very tight. Every three months she receives Botox treatments, helping to improve movement. At 2 and one-half years old, Lolita emergently had a GJ tube placed for feeding, as she was only 17 pounds and losing weight. To top it off, she had chronic pneumonia. In January, right before Monument Health’s new PICU opened, Lolita was flown to Denver to treat the pneumonia. While there, she received a biPap machine and a chest percussion vest to help loosen infection in her lungs. Lolita has spent much of her life in and out of the advanced pediatrics department at Monument Health, in addition to traveling for specialized treatment. Since her trip to Denver, Lolita’s illnesses have been able to be managed at home. She is currently in physical, occupational and speech therapy. Although Lolita’s mobility is limited, she is a spirited girl who loves to listen to music.


Lennon Little Black Hills Battles


Lennon’s parents were overjoyed at the news of a baby girl and were in the process of moving to a bigger house when her mom, Kristi’s, water broke at 28 weeks. Her maternal fetal medicine doctor advised her to immediately get in the car and drive to Sioux Falls to deliver. They got to New Underwood and turned around because Lennon was coming quickly. Lennon arrived via emergency c-section as soon as they got to Monument Health. She was quickly diagnosed with hydrops fetalis, a condition in which an abnormal amount of fluid accumulates in a baby’s body. Lennon’s particular diagnosis meant that Kristi’s immune system attacked Lennon’s red blood cells in utero. Lennon was also diagnosed with urogenital sinus, a rare birth defect in which the urinary and reproductive tracts do not separate. The urogenital sinus has caused UTIs which have led to surgeries and what doctors thought was kidney failure. Lennon recently had a procedure called a vesicostomy which helps urine drain and protects her kidneys. She has since been healthy and free of UTIs. Lennon’s favorite things to do are to play with her puppy Atlas, who is her German Shepherd protector, and to play with her cousins.


Curtis Little Black Hills Battles


Curtis was born at 28 weeks gestation, weighing in just one pound six ounces. His parents, Chuck and Angela, were expecting an early delivery, but not that early. Angela had a complicated pregnancy, and after one particularly rough day, she went to the hospital as a precaution. Curtis arrived shortly after via emergency c-section. His outlook wasn’t promising, and he ended up dropping to one pound one ounce before he started gaining weight. Curtis spent his first 77 days in the Monument Health NICU. After being released, he continued to have health issues, including respiratory illness and epileptic seizures. He gets rhinovirus frequently due to underdeveloped lungs, leading to fluid in his lungs requiring hospital stays on the pediatric floor to get him back on track. Despite a rough start, Curtis is now healthy and thriving! He loves all kinds of trucks and playing with his brother Wyatt.


Darren Little Black Hills Battles


Shortly after Darren’s ninth birthday and Thanksgiving in 2017, he fell ill with what his parents thought was a case of too much holiday. Throughout the week, Darren grew nauseous and lethargic and his breathing became labored, so his mom, Shanna, took him to the emergency department at Monument Health. His labored breathing was called Kussmaul breathing, which is very indicative of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious and potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes in which the body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones. Darren was admitted to the ICU for a few days to monitor for brain swelling and to slowly administer insulin for his newly diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes. In October 2021, Darren was found to have issues with his gastrointestinal system, leading to a 12-week stint of frequent hospital stays. His medical team is still working to determine a cause for the GI issues. Darren is now 13 and leads as normal of a life as possible. He enjoys playing baseball and soccer.


Sayler Little Black Hills Battles


During Sayler’s mom, Kami’s 20-week ultrasound, genetic markers indicated a potential Down syndrome diagnosis were present. Although her pregnancy was deemed high-risk, Kami and her husband were reassured they would have a healthy baby girl despite her Down syndrome diagnosis. Due to holes present in Sayler’s heart, Kami was induced early. Sayler was born without incident and went home after three months. A short time later, she was admitted to the hospital for breathing difficulties. She was diagnosed with RSV and spent a few weeks in the hospital. After that visit, Sayler continued to battle respiratory viruses which led to 12 more hospital stays, and later was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia. After treatment, her health turned around! She is now a healthy, happy girl who loves new outfits and gymnastics. If Sayler plans the to-do list for the day, you can bet it will include shopping and a stop at her favorite coffee shop!

2021 Battlers


Little Black Hills Battles - Carter


Carter was just 4 years old when he was diagnosed with a disease that is especially rare in children. Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes Carter’s body to attack the myelin sheaths, or fatty coverings that protect his nerves. Since then Carter, now 10, has been receiving his regular infusions at Monument Health. Carter’s journey has been a long one, and he has overcome more than most adults could only imagine; yet you’d never know it if you saw him. Carter enjoys spending time outdoors, camping, playing sports and spending time with his brother, Mason, and rabbit, Onyx.

Read Carter's Full Story


Little Black Hills Battles - Brox Story


Brox was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and Complete Antrioventricular (AV) Canal defect at birth. Complete AV Canal defect is a severe congenital heart disease in which there is a large hole in the tissue that separates the left and right sides of the heart. The condition is often associated with Down Syndrome. Brox’s care team in Monument Health’s NICU and Pediatric Unit worked closely with a pediatric cardiologist from Omaha, Neb., ensuring that Brox was healthy enough to travel to Omaha at 2.5 months for open heart surgery and was instrumental in providing support before he was transferred. Brox is now a strong, healthy kid who loves people and anything related to baseball — especially Post 22 Baseball!

Read Brox's Full Story

Barret & Jack

Barrett and Jack Little Black Hills Battles


Barrett and Jack, born at 24 weeks gestation, along with triplet Leighton, came into the world in a fury. All three boys were under two pounds at birth and as planned, were immediately taken to the NICU at Monument Health. Leighton fought hard, but unfortunately passed away peacefully at 3 days old. After many trials and tribulations, including intestinal surgery for Jack and heart surgery for both boys, Jack and Barrett were discharged home with their moms after spending 3 long months in NICU. Throughout the following cold and flu season, both boys required admission to the Pediatric Unit at Monument Health for support with oxygen. Against all odds these two tiny preemies have grown to be healthy, thriving, superhero-loving kids!

Read Barrett and Jack's Full Story

Little Black Hills Battles - Lyla


Lyla has spent a good portion of her life fighting a battle that no kid should have to fight. She was diagnosed with bilateral kidney cancer at 14 months, after tumors were found on both of her kidneys during an emergency department visit following an appointment in urgent care. Lyla spent the next six months receiving aggressive chemotherapy treatments out of town. Following her initial treatments she was able to continue her chemotherapy as an outpatient on the Monument Health Pediatrics Unit, working closely with her Oncology team. Receiving her care close to home allowed her to continue spending time with her grandparents, and gave her family the freedom to live life as normally as possible. Lyla is currently in remission, only visiting the hospital for routine imaging scans or for a short stay due to her compromised immune system. Lyla is thriving and loves trips to Canyon Lake Park to play and look at the ducks!

Read Lyla's Full Story

Blakelynn Little Black Hills Battles


Blakelynn was born unexpectedly early at 25 weeks, weighing just 1 lb, 6 oz. The first 107 days of her life were spent in Monument Health’s NICU, where she was placed on a ventilator to help her breathe and had multiple blood transfusions. At 32 weeks old, Blakelynn needed heart surgery, a PDA ligation, which required her to travel out of town. PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosus) is a common defect in premature babies, in which a hole in the heart allows extra blood to flow to the lungs. Only one week after Blakelynn’s surgery and right before Christmas, she was able to come back to Monument Health to continue to heal. Blakelynn’s mom, Shelby, credits the support of Monument Health physicians and caregivers for being able to come back to Rapid City so quickly after surgery. Blakelynn has since been hospitalized a few times for respiratory illnesses, and receives monthly injections on the Pediatric unit during cold and flu season to help prevent future respiratory illnesses. She is now two-years-old and loves being outside and playing with her babies!

Children's Miracle Network

Donations through Monument Health’s Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) program are devoted to helping these children. All funds stay local.