Mighty Blog

Tate, 11-year-old patient, raises $16,000 for Children’s Minnesota

It’s not every day that an 11-year-old donates $16,000 to a cause he truly believes in. But, at Children’s Minnesota, we see amazing every day.

One year ago, Tate Dillingham, affectionately known as Tater Tot, started experiencing symptoms of a major concussion from hockey practice. But after visiting a neurologist at Noran Neurological Clinic in Woodbury, MN, the Dillingham family received a diagnosis no family wants to hear: their son had a brain tumor. Tate’s neurologist referred him to Dr. Meysam Ali Kebriaei, a pediatric neurosurgeon and physician at Children’s.

The Dillingham family was understandably worried about their son, but everything changed once they met Dr. Kebriaei, who immediately helped them feel more secure and positive despite the situation at hand.

Care parents trust

“Dr. Kebriaei is an amazing man,” said Joel Dillingham, Tate’s dad, when reflecting on that first office visit. “He took the time to explain everything, and reassured us that although his tumor was uncommon, it was slow growing and benign. He assured us that it was going to be okay, even telling us ‘if you have a brain tumor, this is the one you want to get.’”

Thanks to Dr. Kebriaei’s positive attitude, Tate was able to maintain a sense of humor and a positive outlook throughout his Children’s experience and named his tumor ‘Tommy the Tumor.’

“I’m totally rocking this brain tumor,” Tate told his mom, Chris Dillingham, before going into surgery.

And Tate did rock his brain tumor. Only one day after surgery, he was feeling better and was even able to walk a little bit. During his stay after surgery, his parents wanted to make sure Tate still felt like a kid. Because of that, they took him to The Child Life Zone, a place where patients and families go to play, learn, laugh and relax. It was in The Zone that Tate decided he wanted to help other kids who were in the hospital just like him.

“I looked around and saw kids in pretty rough shape. I felt bad,” explained Tate. “I wanted to help them.” From there, Tate grew the idea for a fundraiser.

Dillingham family presenting a check to Dr. Kebriaei

Tate’s Tots fundraiser for kids

To raise awareness and help other kids at Children’s, Tate and the rest of the Dillingham family hosted a benefit called Tate’s Tots in their hometown of Hudson, WI, during May to honor Brain Tumor Awareness Month.

Tate set an ambitious goal to raise $10,000 for the neuroscience program at Children’s.

To help him reach this fundraising goal, Chris set up a Facebook event and donation page in Tate’s name. Within minutes, donations starting rolling in. Families from communities surrounding Hudson attended the benefit, which hosted a barbecue, face painting, petting zoo with the Dillingham family’s donkeys and more. About 250 people attended the event, and combined with the Facebook fundraiser, Tate not only met but exceeded his goal. He raised more than $16,000 for kids at Children’s!

Tate and his family visited Dr. Kebriaei on July 24, 2019, to present the donation and personally thank him for helping Tate get better.

Today, Tate is in the clear and is down to only visiting his doctor for an annual well-child visit. He is slowly coming back to playing the sports that he loves, and his family couldn’t be happier.

“We’re so grateful for everyone at Children’s who took care of Tate and our family during this tough time,” said Chris. “The level of care we experienced at Children’s was remarkable. Everyone we encountered, from the doctors to the nurses to the janitor, were warm and friendly. We were absolutely blown away.”

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Kaitlyn Kamleiter