It made for a touching story. His name was Alex, he was 9, and he was dying of leukemia. He moved to Gypsum, Colo., to spend his final days and root for the Eagle Valley High School football team. And then he passed away.
The team honored him at its game the next day on Oct. 26 by wearing orange socks, and the school released orange balloons at halftime, reported Denver's CBS 4.
Only none of Alex's story was true. There was no Alex at all, ABC News reported. He was a hoax perpetrated by a 22-year-old woman identified as Briana Augustenborg. She even went to the trouble of writing an obituary for the Vail Daily.
But that was her undoing. Local radio station KSKE investigated and found no death certificate for the boy, so it alerted authorities, ABC said.
A few weeks before, Augustenborg spun her tale about Alex for a co-worker who had a son on the football team, and the outpouring of support began on a Facebook page and throughout the community. Local newspapers wrote about Alex, too, and the team invited him to one of its games.
But the campaign, while very real and heartfelt, reached out to a boy who did not exist. The photos the woman used to represent Alex were of a cancer patient in South Africa who is very much alive, according to KDVR.com.
As of now, Eagle County sheriffs do not believe any money was taken by Augustenborg, so she faces no charges, reports say. But she has a lot of explaining to do.
“I think it’s messed up," one student told CBS 4. "I don’t know why anyone would do that."