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Fundraising with "Big Red"

When Chris's family decided to start fundraising for RFA, they knew they wanted to get creative. They thought about "Big Red", their burgundy 1991 Ford Escort wagon, and how she got their 2 oldest daughters through college. Now, after 25 years (!), it was her time to step up for their youngest son, Chris, who had been battling desmoid tumors for 6 years.

"We told everyone if we could raise $2,500, we would put her in the derby and we ended up raising $5,000!" Below is the ask they sent out to friends and family along with a link to their fundraising page. Included are photos before and after the demolition derby.

You can help support research as well! Start your fundraising as an actual or virtual participant at!

A short story about a car, and a boy, by 2 sisters who love them both…

She is long, she is lean and most importantly she is big. She is Big Red. Many have seen, heard and smelled the living legend and some have even been fortunate enough to be engulfed in her magnificent polyester embrace. The road seems to part as drivers look in both horror and awe to see Big Red, the majestic 1991 Ford Taurus station wagon, approaching in their rear view mirror.

It was 1991 when the old girl entered our lives and stole our hearts. Initially mom looked down on Big Red as she struggled to part with her sporty, 2 seater CRX in which she and Erika tore it up. Big Red served us well in her early years with mom pilling all of the cul-de-sac children into her glorious rear facing seats, driving them all over Richmond and beyond. Mom put Big Red to the ultimate test of strength when she pushed Red past 90mph on a speedometer that only went to 80…Ask and Big Red shall provide. Although a little smokey and overheated upon arrival, Big Red rose to the challenge of getting Doug to the ER as he lay convulsing in the passenger seat, unaware that his rupturing appendix was the cause of him proclaiming he was on his death bed.

From this moment on, Dad and Big Red formed an unbreakable bond. So close, in fact, that he took her on as his main lady when mom upgraded to a sleek new mini-van. They spent the next 10 years commuting to work together, sometimes listening to the one radio station she offered, other times she chose silence. As he nursed her into her golden years, Dad taught us the value of smooth accelerations and decelerations as well as the importance of checking fluids as she was prone to massive hemorrhages in her mature years. Appreciative of his gentle touch she tried her best to keep it together with only a few mishaps along the way. A few missing hubcaps, one door and window out of commission, burnt out AC, and 2 transmissions later, Big Red was ready to write her next chapter.

Big Red goes to college. Erika welcomed her with open arms and a heavy foot as they traversed the campus of UVA and Charlotesville for the next four years. Remarkably the two experienced only two lamppost love taps and a slight run-in with a UHAUL. Although battered, Big Red was not broken.

While still a beauty in the Powell’s eyes, Big Red had transformed into an aesthetic disaster from the common man’s perspective. Erika acknowledged this as fact. Thinking there was little chance of theft or tampering she took few security measures when leaving Red unattended, and always left her unlocked. These security measures were proven sufficient after a stranger spent the night in Big Red, making sure to leave a thank you note stating they could have stolen her, but simply chose not to.

Always looking to better herself, Big Red continued her journey west, crossing the mountain to Harrisonburg. Pursuing her second bachelors degree with Lizzy at JMU, Big Red surprised us with a rebellious streak. After deciding not to release the key from the ignition, the only way to enter big red was to enter through the trunk and crawl down her cavernous body. This was a crowd pleaser. It was hard to tell which of her modifications were the deadliest- the dry-rotted emergency break snapping off in the library parking lot or the windshield wipers choosing not to wipe in the most violent of rain storms. After entering the real world, Lizzy upgraded to something with a little less character and a little more reliability, leaving Big Red dejected on the curb.

Passing by her sedentary, rusty self, it is impossible to overlook the fact that Big Red is on her last leg. Bruised and broken, Big Red sits quietly, knowing that she has yet to take her last drive – that on her deathbed, she can still serve…

Big Red has created memories with every Powell but one. She has yet to serve our baby, Chris. What no one saw coming was that this would be her most important role yet.

After witnessing our first demolition derby at the state fair about a decade ago, dad put entering a car in the derby at the top of his bucket list. As we don’t quite view dad a derby kind of guy, we thought it was a passing whim, but he never let it go. So, as we have all been trying to decide what to do with our old gal, a beautiful marriage was made. What could be a more fitting end than for dad to live one of his dreams while Red goes out battling for a good cause. So, at the ripe old age of 25, Big Red will take her final journey raising money for Chris’s cause and battling it out as the “Desmoid Destroyer” at the Virginia State Fair!

Our goal is to raise $2500.00 for the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation, and if we can do that we will enter Big Red in the state fair on Saturday, Oct 1st – Exactly six years to the day that Chris was diagnosed. We hope you will all come and watch Big Red battle it out! Afterwards, we will be having a “Keg for the Leg” derby party at the Powell house- Invitation from mom and dad to follow so save the date!!

Chris’s latest MRI in August showed that his tumor is still stable after almost two years with no chemo! We are all so grateful for this news.

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