Bellaire girl overcomes physical ailments

BELLAIRE — In the All-American town lives someone with more fight in her then many football teams. And she’s a girl.

Harlei Parker has been through more in here 15 years than most people will ever see in their entire lifetime. Despite it all, she has never let anything stop her.

Her mother, Angelique Parker, spoke of the first time Harlei went to her initial round of chemo after being diagnosed with a brain and spinal cord tumor. The doctors made Harlei wait a good while before seeing her, when the doctor finally did arrive, she pointed her little finger at him and said that you do not make me wait, you have one hour and that’s it.

“She (Harlei) has places to go and people to see. She doesn’t have time for this nonsense,” said Parker. “She’s bratty and bossy, just like I like her.”

One of the biggest challenges for Harlei when she goes into the hospital is that she will not get to watch the Cincinnati Bengals. She’s heading back this month, which also happens to be Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, for her 18th surgery.

Upon first glance, it is easy to see how big of a Bengals’ fan Harlei is. The wheels on her wheelchair have football helmets and say Bengals. She has been a huge fan since she was 18-months-old.

“Two years ago, Harlei was in a kids’ fantasy football league, which she won. Then last year I put her in an adult league, which she also won,” said Ricki Parker, Harlei’s father. “She’s not just a fan, she’s obsessed.”

The Bengals training camp was something else she was looking forward to. The Parker family was going to go to the Bengals’ training camp this summer when Harlei stopped breathing and had to be Lifeflighted to Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.

Once she was well, Harlei’s teacher and friend, Gregg Bonar, called and said how big of a fan she was. The Bengals did not disappoint, as they invited her to training camp with VIP passes. Harlei was given the chance to be down on the field with the players, posing with several players for pictures. The players signed gloves, towels and a football for her.

“It was a dream come true and to see her three weeks prior, when she was on life support and then to see her at the Bengals camp …” said Parker. “Harlei still talks about the training camp.”

Harlei has served as an inspiration to her family and friends by never letting anything stop her. As Parker said she has places to go and people to see, she is feisty, bossy and is never down about anything.

Like any other 15-year-old girl she fights with her younger sister, Lexi, over music or Lexi not picking something up. The only rule is not hitting. Harlei loves to have her nails done and shoes.

When the doctors and nurses had to remove some this last time she was in the hospital, they had to go and find polish to do her nails.

For the future, Harlei has thought of a career for ESPN and with her fantasy football draft doing well and enough football knowledge to challenge anyone, it could be a very likely option. As Harlei has said, “when they said it was impossible, I said it was possible.”

Van Dyne can be reached at