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March 14, 2013 — A recent period in Derek Augustin's life did not involve throwing a ball or riding a bike. Rather, his energy was expended undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments, as well as two stem-cell transplants, to combat neuroblastoma, a malignant cancerous tumor that first formed over his left kidney and a portion of his spinal column.
Throughout his battle, Augustin did what he had to do. Essentially, he “cowboyed up.” The Associated Students of the University of Wyoming (ASUW) recognized his spirit and rewarded him with the designation of UW’s Honorary Cowboy during 2011.
ASUW now seeks to recognize another K-12 Wyoming student who faces a similar life obstacle and exemplifies the “Cowboy Up” spirit of UW’s students. That person will be named an Honorary Cowboy for 2013-2014.
The ASUW Honorary Cowboy Act was established in 2011 to recognize Augustin. During his time as Honorary Cowboy, Augustin rode on ASUW’s Homecoming float and ran onto the field with UW head football Coach Dave Christensen before a home game. Augustin even was out on the 50-yard line for the pregame coin toss.
“He (Derek) didn’t outright say it, but you can tell he enjoyed the activities, and it made him feel as normal as he could with what he had going on,” says Lisa Augustin, his mother and ASUW office associate.
First diagnosed with neuroblastoma in August 2011, Augustin spent about five months living at Brent’s Place, a special facility located in Denver for children with cancer, during 2012.
Neuroblastoma is a malignant cancerous tumor that develops from nerve tissue, and usually occurs in infants and children before age 5. Most neuroblastomas begin in the abdomen, in the adrenal gland, next to the spinal cord or in the chest. Neuroblastomas can spread to the bones, including those in the face, skull, pelvis, shoulders, arms and legs. It also can spread to bone marrow, liver, lymph nodes, skin, and around the eyes.
Now 8, Augustin has been in full remission since December 2012, his mother says.
“I would say it helped Derek to be surrounded by people rooting for his success,” says ASUW President Joel Defebaugh. “He felt the connection with the entire UW community and got to meet a lot of people who gave him courage. I think, for the family, it furthered the support from all across campus.”
The support and energy of UW students in the ASUW office was helpful, says Lisa Augustin. She says it gave her a break from shuttling Derek to his various treatments and an opportunity for her to recharge her energy.
While it was the initiative of ASUW executive members to create an award for Derek Augustin, as he was the son of an ASUW employee, there was no Honorary Cowboy named last year. The program is still in development, Defebaugh says.
“Since that time, the executive team had been working on the process to make the award an annual program,” he says. “So, this is the technical kickoff year.”
The Honorary Cowboy and his or her family will receive the opportunity to attend certain UW sporting events and cultural programs. The Honorary Cowboy also will receive a certificate or plaque at either an ASUW Senate meeting or a campus event, Defebaugh says.
Recognition criteria for Honorary Cowboy are:
-- Students in K-12 Wyoming schools.
-- An individual should emulate an upbeat attitude that represents the “Cowboy Up” spirit of the UW student population.
-- An individual who faces a formidable life condition or circumstances that requires a “Cowboy Up” spirit that leads to an ultimate triumph.
-- An individual should have community and family support.
Each application must include a 750-word essay on why the nominee represents the “Cowboy Up” spirit and one letter of reference that is pertinent to the nominee’s “Cowboy Up” spirit. An ASUW executive, senator and staff member; a UW Athletics Department representative; and a UW student at large will serve on the selection committee.
Application deadline is April 1. Mail completed applications to: ASUW: Honorary Cowboy Act, 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3625, Laramie, WY 82071; or submit electronically by 5 p.m. that day to email@example.com.
For more information, call the ASUW office at (307) 766-5204.
“I hope, what it did for me, it will do for whoever is chosen,” says Lisa Augustin. “It’s a great help to know there are people pulling for you.”
Derek Augustin, ASUW’s Honorary Cowboy during 2011, rides the organization’s Homecoming float. ASUW seeks applicants to determine who will be the 2013-2014 Honorary Cowboy. (Lisa Augustin Photo)