Newburgh mother speaks out over believed cancer-research scam - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Newburgh mother speaks out over believed cancer-research scam

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A Newburgh mother is speaking out after she says a woman took advantage of her family and friends during the most vulnerable time in her life.

Heather Debruin says after her baby boy was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor, a woman offered to raise money for cancer research in her son's name, but now she believes it was all a scam.

Debruin says around this time last year, one of her twins got horribly sick and diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

The Debruin family battled the disease for 6 months while they say another woman benefited from their misfortune.

Debruin says for a year and a half, she, her husband and three kids lived a happy and normal life until April of last year when 19-month-old twin, Wade, came down with a fever that lasted 15 days.

"I remember canceling Easter plans because he had a fever," Debruin recalls.

Wade was seen by several doctors, who confirmed he had neuro-blastoma, a rare solid tumor on his kidneys.

"It started on the adrenal gland, it invaded his kidney and it metastasized into his bone marrow," Debruin said.

Although the survival rates are slim, things started to look better for the Debruins. After six months of high-dosage chemo, Wade got a clean slate from the doctors.

No evidence of the cancer, that had once occupied his little body. The next step would be a bone marrow transplant.

"When we went back in on November first for the bone marrow transplant, the tumor had come back so aggressively. You know, almost a month from our clean scan that there was nothing they could do for him," said Debruin.

Wade died less than 2 weeks later, this past November.

Heather says it wasn't until Wade's funeral that they began to realize someone might be benefiting from her son's diagnosis and now, death.

"This woman had posted that she was going to have a raffle for Toyota Sierra Minivan, so she was asking for checks, raffle tickets would cost $100 a piece, and it turned out there was no van."

The Debruins are thankful for the support of the community, but they never saw any of the money for their foundation, Wade's Wings.

A legitimate organization, they hope, will bring relief to other families and some peace to theirs. 

"Being able to be productive and helpful to another family in our situation, inevitably will bring us some peace, but right now it's still very fresh," Debruin said.

The Warrick County Sheriff's Office is investigating.

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