From lemons and lemonade: Roosevelt to host lemonade stand as fundraiserDonna Abrahamson’s fifth grade class at Roosevelt Elementary School is setting up lemonade stands beside the school building on Tuesday. Everyone is invited to enjoy a glass of lemonade as a show of support for their classmate, R.J. Dobbins. His mother died several years ago and his father is recovering from colorectal cancer surgery. The sales begin at 2:30 p.m.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
Donna Abrahamson’s fifth grade class at Roosevelt Elementary School is setting up lemonade stands beside the school building on Tuesday. Everyone is invited to enjoy a glass of lemonade as a show of support for their classmate, R.J. Dobbins. His mother died several years ago and his father is recovering from colorectal cancer surgery. The sales begin at 2:30 p.m.
“I know why they’re having lemonade stands, because they always say when I get lemons I make lemonade,” said R.J.
“Lemons are sour like the bad times you have. Everybody tries to make the sour part into a good part — like lemonade,” he added.
Abrahamson described R.J. as an inspirational student, one who is jolly in the classroom, but takes his homework seriously.
R.J.’s classmates are excited about the upcoming fundraiser.
“We’ll be standing in four corners selling lemonade to parents after school,” said Carsten Hysjulien. “It’s been fun, but when you tell about the cause it’s so sad.”
Elijah Jung added, “I think it will be exciting. It’s for a good cause.”
R.J. is the son of John Dobbins of Dickinson and the late Christi Dobbins.
“R.J. was about 5 when his mother was diagnosed with cancer,” said John.
“He’s not a complainer either, added his grandmother Molly Powell from Las Cruces, N.M., who was visiting the family.
The Dobbins family was living in Green River, Wyo., when Christi became ill. She underwent surgery for ovarian cancer in January of 2005 and they moved to Denver to continue treatments.
“During March 2007, I was diagnosed with cancer,” said John. “My wife was being treated at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, so I went there and underwent treatment for about three months.”
She died a week after R.J.’s 8th birthday. They had been visiting Christi’s father in Florida at the time.
“We were buying a get-well card when we got the phone call,” said R.J.
“We stayed in Denver, but we struggled because of the memories — it was Mom’s house and Mom’s garden,” said John.
The Dobbins family also includes a son, Lalo, 19, whom they adopted as a child.
“We sat down and had a discussion. We decided we had to move because of the memories,” said John. “We came up to Dickinson.”
An electronics technician by trade, John started working for an oil field company in October 2008. He had been declared cancer-free in December 2007.
“I was living in a camper while R.J. stayed with his grandma in Denver. We sold the house and brought him up here in June.”
“We fell in love with Dickinson,” he said. “We had an opportunity to leave. We discussed it and decided, no we like it here.”
But the work hours became too long for a single father. He switched jobs, working as a Sears repairman for A & E Appliance Repair.
Then during a checkup in March, John learned the cancer returned and surgery was required.
“We played a whole game of Monopoly and I bought the whole board,” said R.J., while he was waiting at the hospital with his grandma.
“This boy can tell you about a lot of hospitals and a lot of procedures,” said Powell. “One of his main questions to the doctors, was when can Dad go swimming again.”
While John was hospitalized for nearly a month, R.J. spent two weeks with Powell at New Mexico. Leaving his homework behind, he went hiking and explored the state instead. R.J. returned to Dickinson on May 3.
“Molly has been a godsend. I cannot say enough about her. I’d be lost without her,” said John.
With John’s illness, the Dobbins family has been making adjustments in their daily lives.
“We keep calling it the new normal, but it keeps shifting,” said Molly.
R.J. counted five, then 10 major changes in his lifetime, including moves, illnesses and his mom’s death.
What keeps R.J. positive?
“Lots of prayers,” he said.
And when he’s lonesome or sad, he plays a favorite Christian song, “The Voice of Truth,” which his mom played in the car on the way to school.
He also has a Build-A-Bear with voice recordings from his mom, such as “Good morning sweetie, I love you.”
The new normal calls for extra help in the house.
“Well, I can do more of my chores. Before, I usually forgot,” said R.J.
“He’s learning to cook,” added John, while Molly gave him a laundry lesson.
R.J. is looking forward to camping with Scout Troop 32, going swimming and visiting his grandfather in Florida. John also welcomes R.J.’s friends to come over to play a game of Wii.
“He’s been through a lot — it’s just been me and him. I’d like to see him get some friends again. That’s one of the reasons for moving to a small town,” said John.
They live near the Dickinson Area Public Library, which is in walking distance of schools, downtown and the hospital.
“The good Lord was smiling on us when we got this house,” said John.
John is on short-term disability and hopes to return to work in two months. The doctors are optimistic about his prognosis. The family has insurance, but finances are getting tight.
That’s why they appreciate the lemonade stands being set up as a benefit; but just as importantly, they appreciate the friendship and support shown by the community.