Aiding Ana’s fight

Ana Steger

One family is making a difference in the lives of another through a love of cars. 

The Give Back Pack will host its 14th charity car show this Sunday, with all proceeds to benefit Ana Steger, a local girl with cancer.

John and Mary Moss, founders of the Give Back Pack, have always loved cars – the majority of their married life has been spent being involved in shows. 

They passed on this love from generation to generation; their son and grandson both judge the shows. When tragedy hit close to home, the family decided to form the Give Back Pack. 

“We had a friend who had a sick child, and we decided since we had all been in the car community to do a car show to raise money for the family,” John Moss said. “It just took off after that.” 

The Give Back Pack’s shows are now a well-oiled machine. Naturally, running the show is a family affair. John is in charge of all things public relations, while Mary oversees the 50/50 basket raffles and registration, puts together goodie bags for the first 100 registered cars and “everything else.” 

Their son, Darren Hergenroeder, is responsible for the 10-person judging team.

“We’ll find out that they have an interest in a certain aspect of the cars, and if they decide they want to volunteer to be a judge, we’ll actually … train them a little more and get them completely up to speed,” Hergenroeder. “So, if they only have a specialty in one area of cars, we’ll get them versed in all areas of cars.”

Hot Rod Nights, the shop that provides the trophies, also doubles as their DJ. Over the past three years, West Park Bowl and Columbia City Saloon has become a staple, as it not only hosts the shows, but also donates a portion of food proceeds. They have also found many other loyal sponsors – many of whom are involved in the car business. 

While the judging team is now set in stone, those who want to have their cars judged or display them may register between 8 a.m. and noon on Sunday. It is $20 to show and $10 to display. 

For those who do not have souped-up wheels, there are still plenty of ways to help Ana’s family. They can come and grab a bite to eat or participate in the basket raffle until 4 p.m. 

Donation buckets will also be scattered throughout.

“They’re more than welcome to come and participate anyway they can,” John said. 

The Mosses said there is no standard protocol to determine what child gets chosen to benefit from each show, but they usually help those with severe medical conditions. 

“We are just looking for a child or a family that needs help,” Mary said. “Whatever we can make, we turn it over to them and give them a really special day, just to make them feel good.” 

Just like the child who inspired the Give Back Pack’s creation, John learned about Ana through the car community. Her grandmother, Karen Lewis, has a friend who participated in past Give Back Pack shows, and he spread Ana’s story from South St. Louis County to Southern Illinois. 

As the “Ana’s Army” Facebook page shared,  Ana and Carlie, her twin sister, were born premature. Eleven days later, she underwent emergency surgery for necrotizing enterocolitis, a potentially life-threatening intestinal inflammation, according to Cleveland Clinic, and spent approximately three months in the hospital. 

When Ana was just 18 months old, her father died of a congenital heart defect. This left Stephanie Steger to raise Ana, Carlie and their older sister alone. 

The Stegers’ world was once again turned upside down when Ana was a year old. Steger noticed one of her daughter’s eyes was not tracking correctly, so she scheduled an ophthalmologist appointment. While they were waiting to see the doctor, Ana was having balance issues. 

When Steger took Ana to the emergency room, the doctors discovered this was because of abnormal amounts of cranial pressure from a tumor in her skull. She was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a very aggressive form of cancer found almost exclusively in infants and children. 

In Ana’s case, the cancer caused her to lose her eyesight the day after she was diagnosed. 

However, Ana does not let her disability or her diagnosis stand in her way, so much so that Karen Lewis said many do not know she is blind when they meet her. 

“Despite being blind and having cancer, she basically does, for the most part, everything that a regular 3-year-old does,” Karen said. “She’s pretty incredible.” 

She also has a love for her nurses at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and animals, especially deer. 

“She calls them ‘babies’ – big or little, she calls them babies,” Ana’s great-grandmother Linda Lewis said.

This special love for deer was passed on from her late father.

“They had this incredible bond, her and her dad,” Karen said. “Her dad would take her outside when she was still able to see, when she was little, and they would feed the deer strawberries. When she went into the hospital and got diagnosed with cancer and she came around after the first 24-48 hours, one of the first things she asked (was) who was feeding her babies.” 

KeiraStrong Forever, an organization that does Wish Days, partnered with Knibb Whitetail Farm to introduce Ana to a fawn. 

The baby, adequately named Keira, was born the day before she met Ana, and the two snuggled with matching headbands. 

Ana also loves music, as for many, it is a consistent part of her life.  

“Music is her life. She wants music on all the time,” Karen explained. 

Her favorite artist? Kid sensation Raffi, hands down. Linda said she knows every word of “Baby Beluga,” one of his greatest hits. 

“She will sing it all the way through for you – and tell you if you do it wrong,” Linda said. 

The family is looking forward to Sunday, knowing it will make all the difference. 

“My daughter … was in respiratory therapy school, and so when the baby got diagnosed, she had no choice but to drop out of school,” Karen said. “So, she had no income at all; Taking care of the medical needs of the baby is a full-time job. If it weren’t for organizations like this, I can’t even imagine where she would be and what life would be like for her. This is life changing.” 

For those who cannot make Sunday’s car show but still want to donate to the family, email 

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Madison Lammert

Madison is a reporter at the Republic-Times. She has over six years of experience in journalistic writing. Madison is a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in mass communications. Before graduating and working at the Republic-Times, Madison worked for SIUE’s student newspaper, The Alestle, for many years. During her time there she filled many roles, including editor-in-chief. When she is not working, she likes to spend time with her dog and try new restaurants across the river.
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