It was the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent.

When Lisa and Rocky Eades discovered that their son, Jason, was diagnosed with a brain stem tumor, it changed their lives forever. The family went from Denver to New York in search of treatment and a cure, spending countless hours and dollars in hospitals and doctor offices and hotel rooms.

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Jason was 8 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer and he fought for as long as he could. He turned nine in April of 1995 and in November of that same year, he tragically passed away after a courageous battle that was truly an inspiration to all who bore witness to it.

Nobody was more inspired by the strength, resiliency, and heart of Jason than his parents were. And because of that, they created the Jason's Friends Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to offer personal and financial assistance to parents with children going through the same thing Jason was.

Since its inception in 1996, the Jason's Friends Foundation has raised more than $5 million, according to its founders. It has been a constant source of support, a constant pillar in the community of Casper and now, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming are honoring the Jason's Friends Foundation, specifically its founders - Jason's parents- Rocky and Lisa Eades.

A press release from the Boys & Girls Club stated that the Eades' "dedication to supporting Wyoming families affected by childhood cancer exemplifies why Rocky and Lisa Eades have been chosen as the honorees for the 23rd Annual Awards and Recognition Breakfast hosted by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming."

The breakfast will be held on September 8, 2021 at the Ford Wyoming Center and will feature six-time Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen.

When the Eades' got the call that they were going to be honored, it was a very special moment for them.

"They talked to us about it probably a month ago and obviously we were humbled," Lisa stated. "We were honored with this recognition because there's really no shortage of great causes and great people in our community and in our state."

Rocky agreed.

"Both of us were very surprised and shocked that they were giving us this award as an honoree at the breakfast," he said. "It was kind of fun because our daughter was with us. We were down in Arizona that weekend and our daughter was with us, which made it even more special."

Adding to the magic of the moment was the fact that it was their friend, Susie McMurry, who first called them to let them know of their recognition.

"Susie called us first and then Ashley followed up with a phone call and I just had immediate goosebumps," Rocky said. "This award - it's an opportunity for us to tell our story about Jason. It's a story about getting back up after the loss of a child, and taking that horrible experience and using it to make it better for people that are going through the same thing."

That's been the mission of the Jason's Friends Foundation since day one, and it is the mission still, as they enter into their 25th year.

"After we lost Jason, we wanted to use those lessons we learned," Rocky continued. "We thought, 'Let's use those lessons that little 9-year-old boy taught us about reaching out and giving and making sure everybody else was going to be okay, even when he was dying.' And so we use those lessons to get our strength back."

Their strength, the strength of Rocky and Lisa, as well as their other two children, Brooke and Skylar, presented itself in an organization that has lessened the burden of countless families throughout the years.

"We've got 145 families in our program right now and we just hit $5.8 million worth of assistance for those families," Lisa said.

Both Rocky and Lisa said that they're blessed and honored to be the recipient of this recognition, but they're even more blessed and honored to be a part of the Casper community.

"The people that gathered around us when we were in New York with Jason, going through surgery, chemo, radiation therapy, and the people that got together in Casper - they sent us letters and they sent Jason toys," Rocky said. "His room was plastered with all kinds of stuff from Wyoming, from Casper. It was pretty incredible. And people would walk into his room and see all of that stuff and say 'Wow, that must be a special place you're from. You must have special friends.' And we do. We're so blessed to live in a community that helps people and reaches out."

Sometimes, reaching out is hard. It's hard to ask for help, to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to say 'This is hard, this is scary, this is more than I can take on.'

For those times, there are organizations like the Jason's Friends Foundation. There are people like Lisa and Rocky and every volunteer with JFF and every bowler who participates in the annual Bowl for Jason's Friends fundraiser. This community is full of people who are always waiting to lend a hand and they're just waiting for somebody to take hold.

"We all have ups and downs in our lives," Rocky said. "And when we get to those terrible downs, we somehow climb out of there and we come out better sometimes. We can do that. We came out of our downs and that was because of what [Jason] did and what he said and how brave he was. We realized we needed to be brave too."

The 23rd Annual Awards and Recognition Breakfast hosted by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming will be held on September 8, 2021 at the Ford Wyoming Center. Reservations for the event can be made by visiting bgccw.org/breakfast21 or by calling 307-235-4079. The Breakfast is a culmination of the Annual Giving Campaign to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming. There is no cost to attend, but those in attendance are expected to make a meaningful contribution to support the Boys & Girls Clubs.

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