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Monday, October 20, 2014

Courage of Two

Courage of Two

Boys’ friendship inspires philanthropy and film

Story by Sandy Cathcart

There are many definitions of courage, but basically it is the quality of spirit that enables a person to face danger or pain without showing fear. That’s a pretty tall order for a couple of six-year-old boys, but together Patrick Cozad and Denver Wells did just that. Their story inspired a film that will screen at the Cannes Film Festival next year.

In November 2004, Denver was rushed to Rogue Valley Medical Center after losing consciousness. Patrick was already there and curious to see another boy his own age. He kept vigil as Denver was hooked to I.Vs and underwent blood tests that revealed he had Type 1 Diabetes.

When Denver was strong enough to get out of bed, the first thing he did was meet Patrick. They struck up an immediate friendship that would prove to last a lifetime. For many weeks, when one boy was sick enough to be bedridden, the other would pop in to make sure he was getting better. When both boys were well enough to move about, they built Lego projects together and explored the hospital in the electric jeep made for that purpose. On one of those exploring days, Denver asked Patrick why he didn’t have hair.

“Because I have a thing called cancer,” Patrick said, and then with a smile he continued, “but I still get to live for another six months.”

That discovery changed Denver’s life forever.

In April 2005, Patrick lost his brave battle against cancer. Denver broke down in tears and asked his father, Marc Wells, why the doctors could not heal his friend the way they had healed him. Marc sat down with his bereaved son and got on the Internet, signing up Denver into the site for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Together they looked up different types of cancer and how it was affecting children.

Because they had signed up in Denver’s name, Denver began receiving mail from St. Jude’s asking for donations.

“Denver worked hard for his weekly ten-dollar allowance back then,” Marc says, “but he put every bit of it into an envelope and sent it to St. Jude’s. Then he started collecting cans with a little wagon and his mom and I would deposit the money for him. For the next two years the donations became a family deal as his brothers Cameron and Zach helped with the accounting and moving cans around. The three boys worked together diligently.”

Still, it wasn’t enough. Denver had a big goal. He had read about a little girl named Mary Flowers who needed surgery because she was blind. He wanted to help her.

Marc was managing a restaurant at the time and allowed Denver to bus tables to raise money. A customer asked if the boy wasn’t a bit too young to be working. When Marc explained what his son was doing the customer ran a news story on TV, and the next thing they knew checks began pouring in from around the country. Denver sent them all to St. Jude’s, and Mary Flowers got her operation. Until that news story broke, none of the people at St. Jude’s knew Denver was only six years old when he had signed up with them.

That same year, Denver had about 200 dollars left from Christmas presents. When he saw the Toys for Tots campaign he came back to his father with the desire to help. Marc negotiated a deal with Rite Aid and they matched Denver’s money and also gave him 50 percent off. Denver and his dad left the store with 14 shopping carts of toys!

Marc explains that Denver’s giving nature is a family tradition. “I used to be a Christian rock musician in a band called “Fools Forgiven.” Our family values have always been that if there is somebody less fortunate than you, pay attention to them, because they might need some help. We raised our boys that way with love for other people. We have tried to recognize and help as many as we could along the way.”

This year, Marc graduated from Southern Oregon University (SOU) with a degree in communications and a focus on film. He is the first SOU graduate to have made a fully produced and budgeted film before receiving his diploma. The independent film is called Courage of Two and features Patrick and Denver. The trailer started showing at Cannes Film Festival in May of this year and is invited to the 2015 season.

It all began back in 2009 when Dr. Jody Waters, Marc’s communications professor at SOU, pulled him aside. “How come students always want to do the blood and zombie movies?” she asked. “I know you have it inside you to do something much better than that.” When Marc told Professor Howard Schreiber his idea, he agreed.

“Something happened to me during the making of this movie,” Marc says. “I have a burning desire to get this film out to elementary schools around the country.”

Marc explains that during the time of the shooting of Sandy Hook, he pulled his kids out of school and gave them hugs and took them for milkshakes and told them how much he loved them. He told them how he and their mother take for granted that the boys will always be here, and how heart-broken they would be if anything happened to them.

“I want to start showing kids positive things they can do,” Marc says, “and that they can make a difference. I want to give kids direction by making more movies about kids doing positive stuff.”

Even during filming, something very positive happened between Denver and Lula Coe, a ten-year-old girl in Boise, Idaho. Lula had been battling the same tumor that Patrick had and she was following the movie team on Facebook.

“She lost her battle to cancer a month before the movie came out,” Marc says, “but we now have a scene with horses that wasn’t in the original movie as a tribute to her.” 

In a local television interview, Roxanne Schuze, Patrick’s mother, stated that Courage of Two is a way to remember her son but also more than that; it’s a reminder to everyone that, “You can make something good out of something bad by giving back,” she says.

Today, Denver is a teenager at Crater High School and is still raising money in Patrick’s name. He hopes to raise a million dollars before it is all over. And if that isn’t enough, his goal in life is to become a doctor and work at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

You won’t want to miss this exceptional film starring Colton Nicol as Patrick Cozad and Ty Hellenthal as Denver Wells. You can see a trailer at www.courageoftwo.com.

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