Tale of dying boy that united Colorado town turns out to be hoax

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This photo appeared on a Facebook page, claiming to show a Gypsum child battling leukemia named Alex Jordan. The story turned out to be a hoax, with this photo really belonging to a informational website on cancer. (Photo: Facebook)

GYPSUM, Colo. (KDVR) — The story of a football-loving 9-year-old with a fatal condition that brought a tiny mountain community together turned out to be a hoax. Now the people of Gypsum are left wondering about what motivated the woman who concocted the it.

According to a report in the New York Times, Gypsum police has said that 22-year-old Briana Augustenborg fabricated the tale about young Alex Jordan, a brave 9-year-old who was in a bout with leukemia that he appeared destined to lose.

It turns out all of the inspirational notes the boy reportedly sent to the local media and organizations were penned by someone else. All the supposed pictures of Alex — smiling and bald — were taken from a website belonging to a cancer foundation.

Police say they aren’t likely to press charges because Augustenborg never tried to raise money using her fabricated story. But that likely won’t quell the disappointment of the town of 3,700 any faster.

Eagles Valley’s football team wore orange socks and pasted the letter “A” on all of their helmets to honor Alex. A Facebook page devoted to Alex’s cause gained hundreds of fans.

According to the tale apparently spun by Augustenborg, who identified herself to the local media as Ms. Augustenborg, a family friend, Alex learned he had leukemia in 2010, but had thought he was over it. When the disease returned, he asked to spend his last days in Colorado’s high country.

It was only natural, according to the tale, that he fell in love with the local comeback kids, the Eagle Valley Devils. The team had won just one game during the 2011 season, but appeared destined to reach the playoffs during the 2012 season.

This fictitious child even began writing letters to the team.

“You guys are so strong,” one note read, messily scrawled in blue marker on notebook paper. “The other teams are missing a 12th man. You guys not only have me to play for, but yourselves too! No team has what you guys do!

“I’m going to a better place so I can watch over you guys. Alex will be forever — I live on! Dream big! I’ll be a Devil forever!”

Eagle Valley football coach John Ramunno read the notes to his players. He is one of many that have been left reeling since learning the whole story was a ruse.

“We all bought into it,” Ramunno told the Times. “They asked me, ‘Why would somebody do this to us? Why would someone make this up?’ That’s a good question.”

The Devils are still alive in the Colorado’s 3A state playoffs, and are set to face Conifer in the quarterfinals on Saturday.