The Brookings Dutch Bros will host a fundraiser on Black Friday, Nov. 24, from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m., with one dollar from every drink purchased going to Katelyn’s Cause.
Katelyn’s Cause is named for Katelyn Wallace, the daughter of Police Chief Chris Wallace and his wife, Molly. The 17-year-old Brookings girl succumbed to synovial sarcoma in December 2008.
Two years later, her family started the program, to provide gifts for the children undergoing treatment in the oncology ward at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. They collect donations throughout the year, which are then used to purchase gifts for children battling cancer and the families supporting them.
The first couple of years, the program raised between $5,000 to $6,000, according to past Pilot articles. Now that figure runs about $20,000 each year — a mark Wallace expects to exceed this year — for a grand total of more than $100,000 in the past nine years.
“Being a nonprofit has opened up a lot of doors,” Chris Wallace said. “There’s a lot of interest in it.”
The annual event isn’t just held over the holiday season anymore, either.
“Now we get calls during the year,” Wallace said. “If there’s a sick child up there, Katelyn’s Cause is able to meet that need, whether it’s financial or a gift, a toy. Those clinic days are hard on them. I’m telling you, man, if you can just take their mind off it for a brief stretch of time … it’s a tough day when you go up there, but it’s well worth it, for sure.”
Katelyn’s Cause has also distributed several thousands of dollars in gift cards.
“What we found out, it’s not only children,” Wallace said. “The parents were just like us. You go in for a routine checkup and find out your kid has cancer. Then you’re there a week, a month. (The gift cards) get them over the hump, with clothing, lodging.”
The Wallace family, usually accompanied by others in law enforcement, travel to Portland to hand-deliver the gifts. This year, they’ll head up there with Lt. Donny Dotson and his family and possibly the owners of Dutch Bros., late next week.
“There’s lots of positive energy,” Dotson said last year. “There’s a smile on some kid’s face today.”
“It’s kind of exciting,” Wallace said, describing the meeting room at the hospital filled with piles of gifts. “It’s, holy cow, what an awesome community we live in. It’s truly amazing, the generosity of people. And it makes us feel good that Katelyn’s remembered. I hope she’s happy and looking down on us, smiling.”
Wallace still reflects on what was, what could have been and what is, in a life without his eldest daughter. She would have been 26 years old.
“Days like this; I don’t know,” Wallace said of Monday’s gloomy, drizzly weather. “It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. It seems like it was yesterday in a lot of ways. We look at our youngest daughter; she just turned 13, and she used to run around at Doernbecher’s when she was a baby. It’s not normal to lose your child before you go.”
Wallace thanked the community for their donations on behalf of both his family and Doernbecher.
“I think it really drives home the motto of Katelyn’s Cause — ‘bringing smiles one gift at a time,’” Wallace said. “We look forward to continuing and expanding the program.”
More information is available, and donations can be made, by visiting www.katelynscause.com.