Family donates $30,000 to the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital after son fights leukemia

Throughout his two years of fighting leukemia, 8-year-old Tyler Juhl has been to every ‘Tyler’s Tribe’ horse race. Now, his family is giving back to the hospital as Tyler is ready to be cancer-free.



Grace Katzer, News Reporter

After two years with cancer, third-grader Tyler Juhl is about to ring the bell on Oct. 24 at the University of Iowa’s Stead Children’s Hospital. Now, his family is giving back to the hospital with a $30,000 donation from their prize-winning horse, Tyler’s Tribe.

Tyler, an 8-year-old from Solon, was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Aug. 27, 2020. Tyler’s mom, Kari Juhl, said she knew quickly something was wrong with Tyler.

“We noticed just a lack of energy, growing bruises, and some red dots, so we took him to his pediatrician,” she said. “We were quickly referred over to Stead Family Children’s Hospital where they diagnosed him.”

Kari Juhl said Tyler has been undergoing different treatment processes since that day with his family by his side.

When Tom Lepic, Tyler’s grandfather, heard about his grandson’s diagnosis, he knew he had to bring some light during the difficult time.

Lepic, a former jockey, and current Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association president, bought a racehorse in 2020 and named it Tyler’s Tribe in honor of his grandson. Tyler’s Tribe is now one of Lepic’s most successful prize-winning investments.

“[Horse racing] has always been a huge part of my lifestyle,” he said. “My breeding and owning the horses has been pretty successful and our family has had tremendous fun in terms of traveling and watching our horses run.”

The first time Tyler heard about his grandpa’s new racehorse, he was not shocked, Lepic said.

“I was in the office with Tyler, and I told him, ‘Hey, I bought a new horse,’ and that didn’t surprise him because I often buy horses,” he said. “I showed him a picture and told him his name was Tyler’s Tribe.”

RELATED: Local blood shortage inspires family to host community blood drives

Lepic said he saw Tyler’s joy when he heard his grandpa’s new horse was named after him. Ever since Tyler has never missed a race.

“So many people who have never been to a horse race in their life have now been to almost every single race just to be supportive of our family,” he said.

Tyler’s Tribe won first place at the Iowa Cradle, an annual horse racing competition held at Prairie Meadows in Altoona with a grand prize of $60,000.

Kylee Jordan, the 20-year-old jockey that rides Tyler’s Tribe, said she is not surprised they have a 5-0 record with the support of Tyler’s family.

“When I met Tyler for the first time, I knew his whole [family] was awesome,” she said. “They come and support Tyler’s Tribe every single time, but they’re really there to support Tyler.”

Jordan said being a part of Tyler’s Tribe has been an amazing experience.

“It’s crazy to see how much support Tyler actually has,” she said. “Tyler will talk about the friends that he has made in Iowa City, and it’s cool to hear how far he has come, and I get to be a part of it.”

After the Iowa Cradle, Tyler’s family donated the $30,000 to UIHC.

“We just know what the hospital has done for us and for Tyler, and we wanted to give back to everyone who’s been a part of his journey,” Lepic said.

Kari Juhl said the money will be directed to the pediatric hematology and oncology departments.

“Tyler is just one of so many that are battling some type of cancer, and the more that we can do to bring awareness, the more that we can do to help,” she said. “I think doing something bigger than yourself to help others is so inspiring, and my dad has always done that.”