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Gumballs Curing Cancer

Generosity of Gumballs
Girl selling sweets to raise money for families coping with breast cancer Ruth Moon in Vail, Colorado.
October 3, 2014
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado — Giving money to find a disease’s cure just became a little sweeter. If you only have a quarter, Lily DeMuth will take it, and she’ll even give you a pink lemonade-flavored gumball in return.

Eight-year-old Lily is the proud owner of a gumball machine, currently sitting in Eat! Drink! restaurant in Edwards. The machine is full of pink gumballs for sale to raise money for the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness group.

“I think people really like bubble gum — before lots of people got retainers,” Lily said. “It just feels good to, like, help out.”

Lily doesn’t know how much money is in the machine yet, but her mom, Ruth DeMuth, said they’ve had to refill it with about 500 gumballs so far.

“We weren’t getting much traffic in her bedroom, and we weren’t getting much traffic by the front door, so we decided we needed a new plan,” Ruth said.

Lily came up with the idea for her gumball machine when her mom stumbled across the old machine at work, where it was starting to encroach on her desk space. Lily’s first idea was to use the machine as a fundraiser for the Humane Society, but when one of her friends at Edwards Elementary School stopped playing at recess because he was worried about his mom, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, she hatched a different idea.

Lily asked her mom’s boss at Vail Adaptive Ski School if she could use the old gumball machine, and the company donated it to her. Next, Lily took her idea to a friend’s parent on the board of the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group.

Kristen Kenney Williams, whom Lily approached, was so impressed by Lily’s willingness to help that the board created a program to help kids whose mothers have breast cancer.

“This is certainly a disease that is on the forefront of these kid’s minds,” said Williams, whose son has also been thinking about the disease because of his school friend’s mom. “On one hand it’s sad for me to know eight-year-olds have to deal with such a heavy topic, but on the other hand it’s just so inspiring … that they’re trying to make a difference.”

The fund the Vail breast cancer group is starting will be similar to the group’s current “Day to Play” fund, which gives a $500 grant to each woman treated for breast cancer in the Vail Valley.

Grant recipients can use the money for anything from paying bills to a day at the spa, but Williams said she hopes the money helps relieve stress.

“We believe that treating the emotional side is just as important as treating … what they’re undergoing (physically),” she said.

The children’s day to play grant, which gives $500 to the family of a local breast cancer patient for a day’s outing, was awarded for the first time Friday at the annual Celebration of Life luncheon, where Lily was in attendance with her gumball machine. Williams could not release the name of the family who received the grant for confidentiality reasons.

Williams said the organization will start by picking one family per year to receive the grant, but hopes to expand as funds become available.

Lily has seven boxes of gumballs in her house — about 7,000 pieces — that she hopes to sell. She plans on dumping the cash out of her gumball machine in six months, when she will give the money to the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group.