Son creates a legacy for an unforgettable dad through Jimmy Fund Golf

Tim (center) with his mom and sisters at the Mike Patterson Invitational.

What happens to your name when you die?

It’s a question that can elicit strong emotions, from uncertainty and fear to hope and positivity. For the Patterson family, it led to creating a lasting legacy and discovering a greater purpose.

Mike Patterson passed away in February 1998 after a battle with colon cancer. Before he passed, and aware that his time was short, the father of four children between the ages of 10 and 16 contemplated his own legacy with his wife Georgia by his side.

To his family, Mike’s thinking about legacy seemed out of character. He never wanted fanfare or recognition for anything he did. As his son Tim recalls, Mike was the kind of guy who would stop to help someone broken down on the side of the road, then simply go about his day. Still, Mike asked this question of his wife. And for Georgia, the answer for her family was crystal clear.

“As a family, when he passed we knew we would begin some sort of new normality, but never, ever, stop talking about, remembering, crying for, or laughing about our memories of our husband and father,” says Georgia.

The Mike Patterson Foundation has raised more than $100,000 to support Dana-Farber through Jimmy Fund Golf.

So when Mike passed, that’s what his family did. They mourned him in a way that felt right to them, by sharing their memories and laughing about the funny things Mike would say or do. The family awarded a small academic scholarship in Mike Patterson’s name that lasted until Tim graduated from high school in 2006. In the back of their minds, there was always a desire to do something bigger and more impactful.

In 2012, around the time Mike Patterson would have turned 65, Georgia received an email from the Jimmy Fund about starting a mini golf event to raise money for cancer research and care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Like any good mom, she didn’t miss the opportunity to share this email with her son, with a simple suggestion: “You should really get involved with something like this for Dad.”

Tim and his dad shared a mutual love for playing golf, so he filled out a new tournament contact form. He soon received a call from a member of the Jimmy Fund Golf staff. With that phone call, Tim started organizing a mini golf event with a $5,000 fundraising goal.

On June 17, the fourth annual Mike Patterson Invitational will be held in memory of Nicole Heck.

“My college roommate always jokes about me hanging up the phone, pacing around our place, wondering how on Earth I’d hit $5,000,” Tim recalls. “Six weeks later, I was writing a check to the Jimmy Fund for $11,227. I’ll never forget that number and I will never forget the feeling of writing that check. I knew, right then, that this was a defining moment in my life and I had found my passion.”

Through the mini golf event, a more permanent venue for Mike’s legacy was created: the Mike Patterson Foundation. “We continue to honor and share the life of Michael Patterson with others, and remember him with happiness, for that is what he would want,” Georgia says. But the story doesn’t end there.

In 2014, the Foundation added the Mike Patterson Invitational, an 18-hole golf tournament to its calendar. That event took on added meaning when it was named after a family friend, Nicole Bairos Heck, who passed away from breast cancer in 2014 at age 34. To honor Nicole’s memory, the foundation now directs all of its golf proceeds to breast cancer research at Dana-Farber.

Sounds like something a fix-a-flat-and-forget-about-it kind of guy would do.

The Mike Patterson Foundation will host the fourth annual Mike Patterson Invitational in Memory of Nicole Heck on Friday, June 17, 2016, and its annual mini golf fundraiser in the fall. To date, the foundation has raised more than $100,000 for cancer research and total patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about how you can support Dana-Farber’s lifesaving mission when you start a tournament with Jimmy Fund Golf.

Dan D’Onofrio
Account Manager/Writer, Development Communications