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Jason’s Friends assisting over 155 Wyoming families as 26th Annual Bowl fundraiser approaches

Photo Courtesy of Jason's Friends Foundation

On Saturday, March 2, people around the state will come together to support Wyoming kids facing one of life’s greatest challenges — cancer. This year marks the 26th Annual Bowl for Jason’s Friends and, to celebrate, this year the event will take place at El Mark-O Lanes in Casper as well as Camelanes Bowling Center in Gillette.  

As the fundraiser celebrates its 26th year, the community reflects on how far the foundation has come from its humble beginnings. Jason’s Friends Foundation was created in 1996 in memory of 9-year-old Jason Eades after he passed away from a brainstem tumor. His parents, Rocky and Lisa Eades, along with a few close friends and family, were determined to help others after seeing firsthand the devastation that a cancer diagnosis can wreak on a family — physically, emotionally and financially.

In the beginning Jason’s Friends Foundation provided mostly emotional support by just being there for families who had a child with cancer. Volunteers would deliver meals and help in any way they could. Early on, it became apparent that these families needed more than just a few warm meals. They needed financial assistance.

Shortly after Jason’s Friends was founded, the Eades and other Jason’s Friends volunteers witnessed a Casper family lose everything because they had a child with cancer. After the family’s child was diagnosed with cancer, they began drowning in bills. The family of five lost their home in the process and had to move into subsidized housing. The children were forced to leave their friends and neighborhood school behind. The family faced the ultimate loss in the end — their child died from cancer. That moment was a turning point. Jason’s Friends vowed to never let another Wyoming family lose everything because they have a child with cancer. 

To provide a greater level of support, the foundation started fundraising. Bowl for Jason’s Friends began in 1999, with the first event raising $37,884. Over the years, Bowl for Jason’s Friends has grown exponentially, with last year’s event raising nearly $375,000. The event has been a huge success with hundreds of supporters. 

“We have come a long way since the first event when there were only a handful of families to support,” said Christine Robinson, the executive director of Jason’s Friends. “This event is our one and only fundraiser and accounts for almost 50% of the annual financial assistance we provide to our Jason’s Friends families.”

What Jason’s Friends Does

Wyoming is a unique state. Unfortunately, there is no primary cancer treatment available to children within the state. When children are diagnosed with cancer in Wyoming, they leave the state very quickly — often traveling to Denver, Salt Lake City or sometimes much further to receive treatment. Wyoming cancer kids and their families face challenges unlike anywhere else in the nation. The financial impact for Wyoming families is immediate and difficult — often catastrophic. Many times, one parent, or sometimes both, must quit a job to travel with their sick child. It can tear families apart. 

It is because of Jason’s Friends Foundation that Wyoming families can rest assured knowing they will not lose everything they own because they have the misfortune of having a child with cancer. The foundation enables these families to concentrate on their sick child and not have to worry about how they will make their next house payment. Jason’s Friends jumps in and pays for things like mortgage payments, utilities, car payments and travel expenses while making sure families have a home away from home when they must stay somewhere long-term. Jason’s Friends keeps vehicles running and food on the table. 

“Over 90% of the dollars that come into Jason’s Friends goes back to help Wyoming families,” Christine said. “We continue to grow and are currently assisting 158 Wyoming families.” 

In 1996, the foundation provided just under $3,000 in financial support. That number has increased every year. As of February, Jason’s Friends has provided over $7,600,000 to Wyoming families since its inception in 1996. Each year, the foundation gains more families and, as a result, provides more financial assistance. 

How You Can Help

The 26th Annual Bowl for Jason’s Friends event will take place Saturday, March 2 at El Mark-O Lanes in Casper. Bowlers put together five-person fundraising teams, sign up for a bowling time and collect donations prior to bowling. There are prizes available for those who bring in the most donations and a free T-shirt for every bowler who collects at least $100.

Team packets can be picked up at El Mark-O Lanes and the Jason’s Friends Foundation office at 340 West B Street, or be printed at jasonsfriends.org.

For the second year, Jason’s Friends Foundation will be hosting a smaller version of Bowl for Jason’s Friends in Gillette on Saturday, March 2 from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Camelanes Bowling Center. 

More information on sponsorships and participating in the 26th Annual Bowl for Jason’s Friends event can be found at jasonsfriends.org or by calling 307-235-3421.

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