Karen Kubal Edler

After Karen Kubal Edler recovered from a cancer diagnosis, the support she received from the community prompted her to pay it forward to others in need of support. Team HOPE has been helping many adversely affected by various situations over the past six years.

Edler grew up on a farm near Tyndall, SD. She has been employed with Federal Bureau of Prisons for 16 years and owns Kare ‘n More personal services.

She is married to Dave Edler, her daughter Kaylee Halverson and husband Josh have three children.

What started as a routine physical in 2010 for the then 43-year old turned into a day that changed her life.

Before heading out the door one Friday afternoon to meet with friends, she received a call from her doctor.

“The only words I can remember hearing was, ‘I am so sorry to have to tell you this over the phone, but the results of your biopsy confirm that you have cancer.’” Her heart and body felt heavy, the phone call didn’t seem real. Reality set in when she confronted her friends with the news that evening. Telling her family and friends was the hardest thing that she had to do.

As she explains, what followed quickly behind the diagnosis was two years that tested her endurance, strength and faith. After a bilateral mastectomy to remove her tumor, it was found that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Following was four months of chemotherapy, 33 radiation treatments and another year of numerous surgeries and hospital stays due to complications.

Naturally independent, she started the process with an “I can do it myself” attitude that changed after her second chemotherapy appointment when she realized that she couldn’t do it alone.

“During this time, I had received so much support from family, friends, and people from the community. I didn’t know how I would ever be able to thank everyone in the way I wanted, but I was going to find a way. I decided to raise money for cancer research and in 2011 I raised over $5,000.”

Inspiring Team HOPE

After she raised money for cancer research, she realized that she could continue to “pay it forward” by putting her efforts to raising money for those in surrounding communities that needed assistance. This is how Team HOPE began.

“I wanted to help people after I got better,” she explains with a sincere smile. “I wanted to pay back what they’ve done for me as far as helping me, supporting me. I want people to know that they are not alone, they don’t haveto go through this by themselves. That I will drop anything to help them in any way that I have the means to do. I will have the shoulder they need to lean on. I have the arms to hug them when they need it the most. I have the patience to listen, or just hold their hand. My heart is big, and there is plenty of room for me to share it.”

With the help of a friend, Jen Carda of Tabor, the two began planning Team HOPE’s first event that became an annual fundraiser, their Team HOPE Benefit Poker Run. The Poker Run is always held the fourth Saturday of August, in between Riverboat Days and Labor Day, this year falling on August 26th.

The route varies from year to year and always includes a BBQ, fellowship and a lot of fun.

The benefit has grown every year, last year with more than 200 participants.

Helping Many

Edler and Carda, now as close as sisters, have fantastic teamwork and strong dedication that has played a role in assisting with more than 25 benefits since 2012. People ask Carda why her friend does it.

“You have to put yourself in her shoes. She had to lay there and think ‘Is this sickness going to get me or am I going to get it?’ She got it. Now she just wants to do everything that she lost.”

Team HOPE involves more than the energetic sister-like duo. Also involved are Karen’s husband Dave, Jen’s husband Brad, Julie and Rich Fischer of Lesterville, Karen and Kevin Frangenberg of Lesterville and several more that offer up their time when it works for them.

They have helped with some larger benefits not only for people affected by cancer. Last year they helped plan two benefits, one for someone with a traumatic brain injury and one for a woman in need of a kidney transplant but was unable to have it until she had cash up front. They support people not only affected by cancer but also other illnesses and various tragedies such as suicide and fire. The big-hearted group is not selective on those they help and do not turn people away.

Aside from assistance with fundraisers, Team HOPE has been able to provide those in need with Hy-Vee food cards, funds for traveling expenses, funds for medication not covered by insurance and assistance with delinquent utility bills, a big expense from not working during an illness. They send cards and letters of encouragement to people who are ill and gift cards to children. Edler takes care packages to the Chemo center and has delivered flowers to each of the patients and their loved ones.

The responses she receives keep her momentum strong. “A couple days later the wife of one of the patients had caught me in the grocery store and told me thank you, that the flowers and hug I gave her was just what she needed that day. Her husband had been very sick that day and had actually passed away shortly after,” she explains. “These are just small gestures, but are so humbling to the ones that have gone through the overwhelming sickness and pain that cancer brings. It doesn’t take it away, but it truly gives a sense of comfort to know that people care.”

A Generous Community

Edler was surprised at the support from the community and how people pull together for the benefits, even when they might not know each other. Carda adds that no matter the size of the fundraiser, everyone who comes always has a great time and makes new friends. Team HOPE now has regular supporters from out of town, even as far away as Arizona.

Though the benefits are a lot of work for the duo who manage to balance this along with full-time jobs and a family, Team HOPE has impressive goals. Carda smiles and said, “It doesn’t matter how many minutes are in a day as long as you can feel good when you go to bed,” her words genuine and heartfelt.

This amazing team hopes to gain size and volume by adding more volunteers and including sponsors to touch more lives. Though Edler explains that the community has so many generous people that ask what they can do to help, some benefits are so large that they cannot get enough help. One of their biggest challenges is raising enough money to help everyone, they receive new names every week of those needing assistance. The team is extremely grateful for all those willing to help make each event a success.

Getting Involved

Edler is proud to be a part of the Yankton community, stating “The support that we receive from here and the surrounding area just amazes me. Even when times are tough, people will come out to support others in need. The outpouring of support goes without saying. Around here you don’t have to know someone to help someone. That’s just what we do.”

She explains, “There are so many individuals, young and old, fighting hard against this horrific disease. Some fight so terribly hard, but sadly lose the strength to continue. Team HOPE is dedicated to all those that have lost their fight against cancer and those that just won’t let cancer win! We are a non-profit organization, and our mission is to assist and support individuals and families in the local communities that are affected by cancer. I want to support so many more people this year.”

She would love to have more businesses become sponsors of Team HOPE, to be able to help more people in need. If you would like to help Team HOPE fulfill its mission and continue to provide to the families of this community, you may make a donation to the Team HOPE Cancer Benefit fund set up at the Services Center Credit Union, 609 W. 21st St., Yankton, SD 57078. Donations can also be sent to Karen Edler, 3018 N. Francis St., Yankton, SD 57078. If you want to donate in honor of someone specific, please give their name and contact information. Karen can also be contacted at or on Facebook as “Team HOPE-Karen Kubal Edler.”