This is Josef Giovanni Fabus. He had always dreamed of being a police officer when he grew up. Unfortunately on May 15, 2014, the 8 year old and his family were thrown into any child’s worst nightmare instead; the world of cancer, hospital visits, radiation, surgery, pain and constant struggle. Joey had been diagnosed with a rare pediatric brain tumor known as DIPG, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma. DIPG is a brain tumor which is inoperable. It infiltrates the brainstem and the individuals suffering from DIPG have no chance of survival. DIPG is considered a rare disease as it attacks around 300 children per year. Every child diagnosed with DIPG will die from DIPG, usually in less than a year. Some live much less and a few live longer.
Back in 1962, astronaut Neil Armstrong had lost Karen, his young daughter to DIPG. Despite this fact, the protocols for treatment and life expectancy for those suffering from DIPG has not changed since then. Radiation has the potential to reduce the symptoms for a few months but so far has not had any significant effect on life expectancy according to clinical trials.
DIPG, like most childhood cancers, is considered “rare”. This is why there was little or no government funding required for the research to find answers for little Joey. DIPG receives a miniscule slice of the 4% of research funding allocated for all pediatric cancers in the United States by the National Cancer Institute every year.
Joey passed away in January of 2015, surrounded by his family. The young cancer victim’s funeral was paid tribute at by dozens of police officers and emergency workers who had traveled from far and wide. Joey, had previously gotten to live his dream of being a police officer in June of 2014, when he had been sworn in and had spent the day on patrol with the Bethel Park police. He had worn a police uniform and had accompanied Officer Tom Rigatti on a ride-a-long where they pulled over a driver for running a stop sign and when asked about punishment in court, Joey suggested leniency even though he was the one who originally gave her a parking ticket.
After he passed away, he was given an officer’s funeral at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Mt. Lebanon. A white casket was carried out of the church as the color guard stood by. Officers traveled from all over the state to salute Joey.
Joey had always been a fan of law enforcement, oftentimes partaking in the game of cops and robbers. He loved going to school, enjoyed spending quality time with his friends and family and smiled throughout even his darkest days.
To make the world aware of DIPG and little Joey's plight, the Joey Fabus Childhood Cancer Foundation was established. The purpose of the foundation is to raise funds, all targeted towards DIPG research facilities around the world.
Another similar foundation known as the Mckenna Claire Foundation, was established in memory of Macky, who lost her life to DIPG when she was only two weeks shy of her 8th birthday. The logo of the Foundation is a turquoise butterfly, because according to her parents “Macky loved the color turquoise, loved butterflies, and loved to draw. Her own drawings of butterflies directly inspired the little turquoise butterfly in our logo. Every time we look at our branding we are reminded that she is right here with us on our journey.”