The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Cole's Foundation raises $15,000 with cancer gala


Tom Stankard / Daily Globe

AARON RUOTSALA, right, and his wife, Maureen, present a check to John Carver during a Cole's Foundation Gala at Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort Saturday evening. Carver's daughter, Juliana, has been diagnosed with cancer seven times.


Ironwood Township - To support the fight against cancer, more than 50 residents attended a Touch of Gold gala, benefiting Cole's Foundation Saturday evening at Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort.

Peter Grewe, of Ironwood, played the keyboard as people gathered for the evening at the Gun Barrel Lodge. In his welcoming remarks, Grewe said gold is the color of pediatric cancer awareness.

Cole's Foundation was founded in 2008, after Cole Ruotsala, a 3-year-old boy, died in his parents' arms of adrenocortical carcinoma - a rare form of childhood cancer.

Cole's father, Aaron Ruotsala, described his son as a "beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy" who loved to have fun playing with his toy trucks.

While playing one day, Aaron said Cole fell and complained about having stomach pains. The doctor at the hospital thought it was just an injury to his abdomen. On July 24, Cole complained of having stomach pains again and they went back to the hospital. He was diagnosed with the deadly disease. Less than two months later, on Sept. 19, Cole died.

Aaron said he and his wife, Maureen, founded the foundation as a tribute to their son. According to its website, the foundation was created to utilize 21st century technology to provide support and assistance to families facing the "most devastating challenge a parent could face, the illness and death of a beloved child."

During dinner, keyboardist Jessica Funkhouser entertained, then guest speaker John Carver said a few words.

Wiping away a tear, he said his daughter, Juliana, has been diagnosed with cancer seven times in her life and has been through stuff "we have nightmares about."

When cancer kept attacking his child, Carver said he got angry, even though he was raised in church.

"The hawk wants to come out and hurt people," he said. But Carver said he kept praying and asked others to pray for his daughter.

"I felt prayers from other people kept me moving forward," he said.

Sometimes the only thing making people get up after being knocked down, Carver said, is someone in your corner yelling, "Get up."

"That's what the Cole's Foundation has done for my family," he said. "That's what the foundation does for thousands of families across the country. Do you know how important that is to people like me? The power of knowing you're not alone is life-changing. People like you keep people like us off the edge of despair."

Aaron Ruotsala said he feels Carver's grief and thanked attendees for coming. In all, he said the gala raised about $15,000 for the foundation. To show support for Carver, Aaron and Maureen presented him a check of $1,000.

Aaron Ruotsala gave advice to live by. He said the most destructive habit is worry, the greatest joy is giving, the best sleeping pill is a solid peace of mind, and the greatest asset is faith.

Funkhouser performed a song she wrote for Cole and attendees participated in an auction to end the evening.

"To see that many people show up means a lot and it makes a difference," Aaron Ruotsala told the Daily Globe.


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