GALLIPOLIS — The giving continues from what began as a fun golf outing for a friend’s wedding 18 years ago. Some 100 golfers turned out for a day of fun and they even got cooperation from Mother Nature, who held off predicted rain.
Hackfest 2016 was held Saturday at Cliffside Golf Course and continuing another tradition begun a few years ago, proceeds from the golf tournament went to a local family dealing with tough health issues.
This year, Rick Van Gundy, credited with organizing the first and every Hackfest outing since, chose to reach out to Jack Henson as this year’s honoree for the tournament. In August 2015, Henson was diagnosed with amyothrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Henson and his family were the beneficiaries of this year’s event.
Henson, understandably, wasn’t able to attend, but his family was there in full force helping organizers sell t-shirts, koozies and driving refreshment carts around for golfers. The family’s appreciation showed through from their efforts to help Saturday, words of thanks and appreciation to golfers and Henson’s granddaughters, Josie Henson and Lauren Metzger, who were quick to let everyone know their job was to hand out the koozies.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The ALS Association website describes the disease this way: “A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. ‘A’ means no. ‘Myo’ refers to muscle, and ‘Trophic’ means nourishment – ‘No muscle nourishment.’ When a muscle has no nourishment, it ‘atrophies’ or wastes away. ‘Lateral’ identifies the areas in a person’s spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates, it leads to scarring or hardening (sclerosis) in the region.”
Henson describes it as “demonic.” There is no cure for ALS, but there is medicine that can prolong the outcome.
“Dad never meets a stranger,” said Suzanne Eachus, Henson’s daughter. “Dad worked out regularly. He had a regimen, was very healthy and in great shape.
“He never even drank sodas, “she added. “To see this happen to him is pretty devastating.”
The family did find out how their friends and others in the community felt about them on Saturday, though. It’s a thought they will likely remember for a long time.
“Everyone was just so very generous. Most of the people (who played) know him and they wanted to donate,” Eachus said. “We’re just very appreciative and overjoyed. We’ve just been amazed. Dad truly appreciates his friends, and our friends, for the support they’ve shown.”
Brenda Henson, Jack’s wife, echoed that sentiment, “We want everyone to know how heartwarming and appreciative their donations and support are for us. We’re so very sorry Jackie couldn’t be there, but he felt it in his heart.”
Saturday was a day with emotions running high for family and Van Gundy, too.
“I’m just overwhelmed by the support we got from these 100 golfers,” Van Gundy said. “What we raised and were able to do just amazed me.
“Suzanne and I started talking about her dad and what might be done in the way of a fundraiser. I suggested Hackfest. We’ve been planning this since January,” he added.
Van Gundy also pointed out this is the fifth year in a row the tournament has been full with 100 golfers.
“I set the date early, not realizing all that was going on last weekend,” he said, “but I always try to do it around Mother’s Day because we have a lot of guys that come in that weekend. We had golfers from Columbus and as far away as Florida in to play.”
Among the memory making for a good cause was a lot of fun Saturday, too. As always, Van Gundy and his team had a few gimmicks planned for golfers.
This year teams had to putt with a tennis ball on one hole, one player on the team had to use an orange golf ball and record his score separately on par-3 holes and golfers hit their tee shots on one hole by placing their golf ball on a can. Fittingly, the winning team was not decided by its score, but by which playing card it drew when they signed up.
Van Gundy’s effort was supported by many of the same sponsors who have supported Hackfest over the years. Among those sponsors are Midkiff Surveying, Snouffer’s Fire & Safety, Noe and Saunders Law Office, Lorobi’s Pizza Downtown, Cremeans Concrete, Saunders Insurance Agency, Silver Screen VII, Eachus & Finley Attorneys at Law, Burnett’s Heating & Cooling Company, Courtside Bar & Grille, Norris Northrup Dodge, Ohio Valley Bank and Josh Bodimer Auctioneering.
“And of course, Cliffside Golf Course and Jake and Heather (Hall),” Van Gundy said. “We just couldn’t do this without Cliffside’s support. They’ve been big supporters of what we’ve done over the years.”