Denver Wells has a more ambitious agenda for his summer vacation than your average 8-year-old: The Medford boy wants to raise $1,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Denver Wells has a more ambitious agenda for his summer vacation than your average 8-year-old.

The Medford boy wants to raise $1,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. He's been busing tables at the pizza restaurant his dad manages and collecting cans for the deposit money. Last week he took his pitch to the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County.

"I told them about my friend Patrick," Denver said. "He told me he was gonna die, and I was really sad."

Chamber members chipped in more than $250 in cash and checks. Add that to Denver's $42 from can money and tips, and he's collected nearly $300 so far.

Denver and Patrick Cozad of Grants Pass became friends when they were both hospitalized at Rogue Valley Medical Center late in 2004. Physicians discovered Denver had type 1 diabetes. He would have to have insulin injections three times a day and test his blood sugar five times daily to regulate his metabolism.

That was hard for his parents, Marc and Misty Wells, but nothing compared to what Patrick was going through: he had a tumor in his abdomen that physicians expected would be fatal within six months.

"When Denver went to the ICU, Patrick didn't have any hair," Misty Wells recalled. "The meds they gave him made him faint or vomit."

"He knew he was going to die," Marc Wells said. "That's what got Misty and me so much."

Patrick died in April 2005.

Denver kept thinking about his friend, and he wanted to learn more about cancer. While researching pediatric cancers on the Internet, he discovered St. Jude, known around the world for its ground-breaking research in childhood diseases.

He registered on the hospital Web site, and a few weeks later received a letter asking him for a contribution.

"I don't think they knew he was a child," said his dad, who manages Round Table Pizza in the Medford Shopping Center.

Denver told his dad he wanted to send his $10 allowance to the hospital "for Patrick." They put the cash in the envelope and sent it away. Every now and then St. Jude sent another letter, and Denver sent another $10 bill.

One day this spring Denver told his dad he wanted to send the hospital a million dollars.

"Being eight years old, I don't know if he really knows what a million is," Marc Wells said. "I suggested we try something a little more realistic, and try for $1,000."

He put the boy to work busing tables and set up a tip jar for him at the restaurant labeled "Coins or Cans for Denver's Cancer Campaign."

Denver's brother, Cameron, 10, keeps a tally of the contributions, which are deposited in an account Denver has opened at South Valley Bank and Trust.

"They all know Denver down at the bank," his dad said.

Marc Wells said he hopes to recruit high school students to help Denver organize fundraising events during the summer.

Misty Wells said her son's fundraising campaign has given him an opportunity to feel like he's doing something for other kids instead of just feeling awkward about having a disease that sets him apart from other kids.

"It's hard for a kid to be different," she said. "He was a prisoner of diabetes for the longest time."

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail:bkettler@mailtribune.com