Thirteen-year-old Cole Rutter had no idea why his dad was taking him to the Kane County Sheriff's Department Thursday afternoon.
"When we walked up, he was getting kind of nervous because it (the sign outside) said 'jail,' " said Dan Rutter of Sugar Grove.
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The younger Rutter, a seventh-grader at Kaneland Middle School, is this year's recipient of the sheriff's Roscoe Ebey Award.
Sheriff Pat Perez credited Cole, who was diagnosed at 2 years old with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors in the nervous system, with raising nearly $100,000 for research without complaining or feeling sorry for himself.
"We're really proud of him. He does a lot. He goes door-to-door (to raise money)," said Dan Rutter, who along with his wife, Julie, hope the award would help raise awareness about the disease.
"We take this very seriously," Perez said. He told Cole: "You probably don't consider yourself a hero, but we do."
The award was named in honor of Ebey, 83, a World War II veteran and Aurora Township resident who was murdered in May 2007.
Earlier this year, Hector Mauricio, 24, was sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder.
One of Ebey's neighbors, Leslie Fleming, heard a commotion that night and pulled Mauricio out of Ebey's basement and detained him until authorities arrived.
Fleming was the first recipient of the award. Other winners were: Rev. David Engbarth in 2008; Kathy Tobusch, Darlene Marcusson and Sarah Giachino in 2009; and Emily Laughead, Pat Graceffa and Dawn Vogelsberg in 2010.
"It's a big award for a little guy. My dad would be proud of you," Richard Ebey said to Cole.
Thursday's presentation marked the first time the honor was awarded since Ebey's killer was sentenced, a fact not lost on the younger Ebey.
He thanked Perez and his deputies for their support during the four-plus years it took for Mauricio to be brought to justice.
"I hope (the award) goes on forever because it brings the community closer," Ebey said. "This brings back a lot of memories but it makes it easier knowing something good has come out of it."