Owen’s Story: Beating the Odds With Support from Sanford Children’s

After a difficult health journey, 10-year-old Owen is thriving today thanks to expert care from Sanford Children’s in Bismarck.

Owen’s family is sharing his story as part of the 2024 Great American Bike Race (GABR), a one-of-a-kind stationary bike race benefiting local kids served by Sanford Children’s.

As a 2024 Great American Bike Race (GABR) star, Owen is an ambassador for all local kids who count on Sanford Children’s for life-changing, life-saving care.

Owen’s Story

When he was just 4 years old, Owen’s parents began noticing a series of concerning symptoms in their little boy.

“We noticed he was walking oddly, and he’d wake up in the middle of the night and say strange things,” his mom, Kim, recalled.

Doctors initially diagnosed Owen with a seizure disorder.

“But then his symptoms started changing and getting more severe,” Kim said. “His speech was slurred, he had extreme fatigue and weakness. He couldn’t hold on to his toys and he began forgetting words. I was terrified.”

Owen was eventually diagnosed with Anti NMDA Receptor Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain caused by a rare autoimmune disorder. He spent the next six weeks undergoing a treatment plan that included a regimen of drugs often used to treat cancer patients.

“The treatment worked — it made him better. It was a miracle! He started interacting with us, he could move better, and he began playing with toys again. We began to see parts of our Owen shine through.”

While Owen is now completely recovered from the life-threatening NMDA Encephalitis, he continues to rely on Sanford Children’s in Bismarck for ongoing Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIg) therapy to support his deficient immune system.

Every four weeks, Owen and his family spend the day at Sanford Children’s in Bismarck where, Kim says, the team not only provides expert care, they also surround Owen with love and support.

“The team at Sanford has become like a second family to us. The Child Life Specialists always go above and beyond to help our son feel comfortable, safe and informed about what’s happening at each appointment,” she said. “They’re so great at bringing a smile to his face — from playing games to sharing jokes, they just know how to keep Owen’s mind off the tough stuff.”
Owen’s Mom


Today Owen is able to enjoy life “like a regular 10-year-old kid,” Kim said. “He’s fun-loving, curious, imaginative, kind-hearted and wants to be friends with everybody. He doesn’t look like a sick kid. He plays football. We climb mountains every summer. He can do anything and everything he wants — we’re so grateful for that.”

Kim says Owen is excited to serve as a GABR Star for the 2024 Great American Bike Race because he knows it will not only help raise support for Sanford Children’s in Bismarck, it will also help raise awareness for all kids battling serious health issues.

“The biggest thing I appreciate about Owen being featured as a 2024 GABR Star is that while he has a serious health condition, no one would ever be aware of that just by looking at him. He’s not sick all the time and he doesn’t have a physical condition people can see. Yet, the maintenance of his health is a lot for a child to go through — and we’re so grateful to the team at Sanford for the amazing care they provide.”

Cycling for Local Kids

Join us for the Great American Bike Race (GABR) on April 27, 2024!

The wildly fun stationary bike race is one of Bismarck’s most beloved traditions and a fun way to support local kids. The event returns with an expanded mission to celebrate and support all kids who count on Sanford Children’s Hospital and clinics. 100% of every dollar raised will stay local to fuel:

  • Direct assistance for qualifying kids in our community through the GABR Children’s and GABR Legacy funds
  • Programs and services like Child Life
  • Lifesaving medical equipment
  • Specialized staff education and training
  • And more!
Learn More & Register Today!