Derek Augustin, 13, laughed as family friend David Perkins turned from the bowling lane and grinned at the teen.
“I don’t see you doing any better,” Perkins said.
“I haven’t gone yet!” Derek called back.
The two teased each other off and on as they bowled Saturday in the 20th annual Bowl for Jason’s Friends fundraiser at El Mark-O Lanes. Derek traveled from Laramie with his father, Kurt Augustin, and joined friends from around the state.
This is Derek’s fourth time bowling in the fundraiser for the Jason’s Friends Foundation, which assists families with children fighting childhood cancers as well as brain and spinal cord tumors, volunteer executive director Lisa Eades said.
About 1,000 bowlers arrived throughout the day, including families in the program and others who just want to help, Eades said.
“It’s a lot of Wyoming people helping Wyoming people, so it’s really heartwarming to see what’s going on here today,” she added.
The foundation started in 1995 in memory of her son, Jason. He was 9 that January when he was diagnosed with brain stem tumor and died later that year.
No primary childhood cancer care exists in Wyoming, so families travel to other areas, including Denver, Salt Lake City and even farther, Eades said. The foundation helps with costs including travel, household bills, car and insurance payments.
“Anything to ease the financial burden of having a child in Wyoming with cancer, brain tumors or spinal cord tumors,” Eades said.
The foundation has dispersed more than $4.4 million to Wyoming families since it began in 1995, Eades said. Currently, 95 families actively receive assistance through the foundation, she said. She hoped on Saturday to raise more than $300,000 from the event.
The best part of the day for Derek was a chance to see his friends, including his father’s longtime friend Perkins, who drove from Cheyenne and who’s “practically an uncle,” he said.
“I like to come and see friends I know from a bunch of places,” Derek added. Among them are kids he’s met in programs for children with cancer, including Camp Courage Wyoming, he said.
Derek was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at age 7 and has been battling it since, his dad Kurt said. His treatment in Colorado has included radiation and two replacement hips.
The teen chatted, gave bowling advice and hugged his friends, including Brayden Debesche, 4, of Laramie, who also was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2016. He’s in remission but still travels to Denver for scans every three months, said his mother, Kassie Debesche.
Perkins dished the teasing back when Derek bowled a gutter ball.
“They have a special machine to clean the gutter,” Perkins told him. The boy laughed and said he wasn’t going for the gutter and protested when Perkins suggested they ask for bumpers often used by small children learning to bowl.
Kurt also enjoys getting together with old friends like Perkins and other parents of children fighting cancer, he said.
“The organization has helped us so much over the years, so we try to give back what we can,” Kurt said. “We have fun doing this, and it’s a good time to get out.”