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Tuff kids tap experiences in cancer drive
Rendezvous Elementary School students James Hampton, left, Hayden Wempen and Dillon Fabricus displayed the Kid$ Being Tuff shirts they created to raise money for the Tough Enough to Help Cancer Fund.

Tuff kids tap their personal experiences in cancer drive

Jul 27, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

At 11 years old, Dillon Fabricus provided a simple answer for using $800 of his savings to raise money in the fight against cancer.

"Because lots of people get cancer," he said. "And we had family members that had it. My cousin lost a leg when he was my age."

With his good friend Hayden Wempen at his side, Dillon had a closer reason as well.

"I think he wanted to do something to honor Hayden, and he didn't know what direction to go," said Dillon's mom, Kay Fabricus.

Hayden's mother, Michelle Duty-Wempen, died of breast cancer. April 17 marked the five-year memorial.

An idea blooms

"Can I get a T-shirt for me and Hayden?" Dillon had asked his mother one day as a gesture to help his friend.

Instead of limiting attire to the pair of friends, the idea blossomed into an endeavor for the boys to create and sell T-shirts as a fundraiser for the Tough Enough to Help Cancer Fund in Fremont County.

"When I heard that Dillon had this idea I was just blown away," said Nancy Wempen, Michelle Duty-Wempen's mother. "He's 11."

Nancy Wempen helped the young donors with their vision, explaining they needed to raise money for a specific cause.

The boys created their T-shirt design with simplicity in mind: a light pink shirt with a dark pink ribbon in front with the words "Kid$ Being Tuff" in black on the back.

"I put $800 for the first set of shirts," Dillon said, noting they purchased 132 shirts initially at $6 apiece.

The boys created a plan. If they sold them each for $15, the Tough Enough to Help Cancer Fund would get $9, and the boys could put the remaining $6 into purchasing new shirts.

The question remained whether the shirts would sell.

"I knew it was for a good thing, but I was kind of worried I might not get it back," Dillon said about his initial investment. "But I did."

Outpouring of support

The boys, with their other good friend James Hampton, sold the shirts at their school, Rendezvous Elementary, for two days in May. One of their peers expressed his generosity during the sale.

"The second day we were selling shirts, he gave $172," Dillon said. The boy said he had received the money for his birthday. "He didn't want presents. He wanted money for the cancer fund."

The outpouring of support continued.

"We ended up with $1,600 those first two days," Dillon's mom said. "That really got the project going so we could sell more shirts."

The boys also sold their shirts at the middle and high schools in Riverton and at events at the fairgrounds, sports fields and other sites.

Adults substituted for the boys when they arranged a sales event at Gary Broderick Super Store in Riverton.

"I was playing baseball at Lovell, and James and Hayden were at the Jackpot Hog Show," Dillon said.

"So us moms flipped hamburgers," Kay Fabricus said.

At the conclusion, the business donated $400 to their cause. At Day in the Park, someone who lost her mother to cancer donated $100 to the boys.

The boys also spoke at the Riverton Rotary Club meeting. Hayden talked about how he lost his mom and about participating in 5K cancer awareness walks.

"A lot of people donated lots of money," Dillon said. "Pretty much everybody who bought a shirt gave us a $20 bill and said, 'Keep the change.'"

The boys later traveled to Lander to surprise a 5-year-old boy who has a brain tumor.

"We went to his day care and gave him a shirt and a baseball with our names on it," Dillon said.

"When we gave him the baseball, he had to use two hands to hold it," Hayden said.

Their experiences while selling the shirts have opened their eyes to the needs of others.

"They might not be able to pay their bills, food and electricity and stuff. And that's what the money we gave does," Dillon said.

Teresa Nirider, a key player in raising money for the Tough Enough to Help Cancer Fund, appreciates the help from the youths.

"When I see three little 11-year-old boys willing to spend their time and their own personal money ... it really gives us an appreciation for our youth that they understand there are people going through hard times, and they want to reach out and help people," Nirider said.

Pink Night auction

The boys will participate in the Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night auction at the Wind River PRCA Rodeo Roundup during this year's Fremont County Fair and Rodeo. They will sell their shirts through the Back Country Mudd coffee booth at the fair.

People wanting to purchase T-shirts can call Kay Fabricus at 851-0518 or Nancy Wempen at 851-9175.

"We deliver on demand," Fabricus said.

"Our goal is $3,000 and right now we're at $2,000," Dillon said.

And the boys don't plan on stopping after they've reached their goal.

"It's been going through all our minds, 'What's next?'" Fabricus said.

Whatever their decision, the children have helped themselves through the fundraiser.

"They're ordinary kids," Fabricus said. "Other kids can do things too. Kids have big hearts. Sometimes they just need guidance."

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