PHOTOS: Community Turns Out for 25th Anniversary of Bowl for Jason’s Friends
It's the phone call that not one parent ever wants to get: "Ma'am, can you come into our office? We need to talk about the health of your son."
For Shantae Tennant, the moment she got that call, time stood still. She knew something was wrong. Truth be told, she was the one that persisted when other doctors told her that her son was fine. Doctors may know a lot of things, but moms know their boys. And Tennant knew something was wrong.
"Mikey's whole life, he's always been very small and he was sick after every meal," Tennant told K2 Radio News. "We had seen almost every pediatrician in Casper, and a few in California, because I knew something was wrong. Everyone just brushed it off and said he was 'a slow grower.'"
But she wasn't buying it. She knew something was happening with her boy, she knew he was hurting, and she knew that something needed to be done, quickly.
"I finally gave one last person a chance before taking him to Colorado, and they agreed something was off, as my other two kiddos were beginning to tower over him," she said. "They ran blood work and bone growth scans and initially decided that he was 'growth restricted.'"
Tennant still wasn't convinced that was the issue, but at least it was something. On February 25, 2022, Tennant took her boy to an Endocrinologist, who sent him for an MRI to study the size of his pituitary gland.
"That was at 8:00am," Tennant said. "At 5:00pm that night, they called and asked if I could meet a whole team at the Community Health Center of Central Wyoming to discuss his results."
That was the phone call. That was the turning point. That was the moment when their lives changed forever.
Tennant said her first reaction was to burst into tears, and that's exactly what she did.
"Then I wiped my tears away and went to Mikey to explain what was going on, and what it meant for him," she said. "I went straight to my job at the time an took leave, so I could get him immediately seen."
Tennant said that she took Mikey to Colorado for more MRI blood work and a surgery consult. They also talked about chemotherapy/radiation treatment, if it was needed. Thankfully, it wasn't.
The surgery was scheduled for April 8, less than two months after his diagnosis.
It's the type of news that could break somebody, but that's not the type of person Shantae Tennant is. It's not the type of person Mikey is. Mikey is a fighter. His favorite superhero is Batman and Mikey knows that, no matter what, Batman always fought. So, he'll fight too.
"All things considered, he's doing well," Tennant said. "He's talking like he never stopped. He got his feeding tube out two weeks ago. He has vision, but he can't open his eyes, so he's still considered blind. He's walking, but not often, since it's not safe and he's still unstable. He still needs medical equipment and he has appointments almost daily."
Adding to the unimaginable stress of having a child in such an unfathomable circumstance, there's also the issue that plagues most Americans.
How were they going to pay for everything?
For families like Tennant's, there is the Jason's Friend Foundation.
For more than 25 years, the Jason's Friends Foundation has provided financial and emotional support to Wyoming families with children battling pediatric cancer. And, for 25 years, the Bowl for Jason's Friends event has allowed the community to help be a part of it.
Bowl for Jason's Friends is the one, big fundraiser that the Jason's Friends Foundation puts on every year. And this year, the 25th year, was bigger and better than ever.
"It's hard to believe we've been doing this for 25 years," said Lisa Eades, the Founder and Director of the Jason's Friends Foundation. "Jason's Friends has actually been here for 26 years but this is the 25th anniversary for the event. It's grown every year, as have our families' needs."
Eades said that, currently, the Jason's Friends Foundation is assisting 155 families in Wyoming.
"Last year, I'd say our family expenses were almost $800,000," she offered. "Last year, we brought in about $360,000 and hopefully it will be close to that this year. It won't completely cover our family expenses for the year, but it will be a nice push."
Indeed, it was. Throughout the entire day on Saturday, people from all over Wyoming came to show their support for this nonprofit organization. They played. They talked. They laughed. They loved. And they bowled - all for Jason's Friends.
"It's always humbling to see how many people from this community, and this state, come out to support one another," Eades said. "I think that this is what we envisioned Jason's Friends was going to be 26 years ago. Back then, we didn't really have the money to offer what we can offer to families today. Now, when we get a family, we're with them for the long haul."
That's something that Tennant can attest to.
"Jason's Friends is different than anything else we've ever experienced," she said. "I was nervous because I thought we were going to lost our house. But they paid all of our bills and they still pay all of our bills. If I don't have money for groceries, they buy us groceries. Basically, with them, we go without...nothing. We have everything we could ever want."
The only reason that can happen, for Tennant's family and for so many others, is because of the community's support of the Jason's Friends Foundation. Without the Jason's Friends Foundation, Tennant doesn't know where her family would be. And without the community, Eades doesn't know where the Jason's Friends Foundation would be.
For 25 years, Bowl for Jason's Friends has raised money for families battling pediatric cancer, and other ailments. For 25 years, the Jason's Friends Foundation has offered a hand to families who had nowhere else to look. And for 25 years, the community has allowed the organization to continue to support these families, all throughout Wyoming.
If all goes according to plan, that's how it will be for the next 25 years as well. And the next. And the next.
Photos from the Bowl for Jason's Friends event can be seen below: