Jimmy Fund Golf Tournament Director shares 3 lessons about giving back

In September of 2011, my wife, Angela, was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive type of brain cancer. She was already a 10-year breast cancer survivor.

Four months after her surgeries, Angela was spending most of her days in bed and, if we did go out, she needed a wheelchair to get around. At our regular visit with her neuro-oncologist that month, we had a frank discussion about Angela’s way of life. It was suggested that she could start a then experimental drug called Avastin. It was known to be an effective therapy for those with colon and lung cancers and it was just being introduced to those with brain cancer. Angela and I were both supportive of starting this treatment.

Within three days of her first infusion, Angela was back to almost being “normal.” She discarded her wheelchair and walker, and all of us were amazed at her transformation. She was walking without any assistance. In fact, later in the summer her oncologists recommended that she apply for her driver’s license and encouraged her to start playing golf again.

Inspired by her amazing turnaround, we created the Angela and Patrick Palmer Research Fund for Brain Cancer at Dana-Farber in April 2012. Money raised supports brain cancer research and the human implementation of experimental therapies.

That same April with help from the Jimmy Fund Golf staff, we also started our own golf tournament now called the “In Honor Of” Jimmy Fund Golf Tournament. Our entire family loves to golf, so it made sense. We worked with the golf club where I hold a membership to select a date, and with full support from the club staff, our golf tournament was born. For us, it was the perfect venue to raise money in honor of Angela.

Sadly, Angela passed away in February 2016 after her amazing 53-month battle. Her original prognosis was six to 12 months. Her longer-than-expected survival was, in part, due to the experimental treatments that were provided, and funded in part by the many charitable events offered by the Jimmy Fund.

We continue to host the “In Honor Of” Jimmy Fund Golf Tournament to celebrate Angela – this will be our sixth year running it. I’ve learned many lessons over the years as the tournament director. Here are three important lessons that I’d like to share for creating a successful charity golf tournament.

Lesson # 1 – Involve Family and Friends

It is critical that you identify who will support you and your cause. My family and friends participate year after year because they want to honor Angela, and other loved ones connected to cancer. Family and friends can participate, as well as reach out to their networks to build the base. There’s no need to appeal to the masses. When I focused on a much smaller audience, participation was equal, if not greater, and that meant more money going to the Jimmy Fund.

Lesson # 2 – Maximize Email and Social Media

Social media and online marketing are quick and easy ways to share your message with your network. There are more traditional ways to promote your tournaments (save the date cards, brochures), but I’d recommend limiting these potentially costly items to a minimum. If you do go that route, print a small number of these pieces and leave them in the host club’s pro shop.

Lesson #3 – Solicit Advice

Over the last few tournaments, I handed out gifts in the range of $40 to $50 per player. Although they were appreciated, many players commented they would rather see that money going directly to the charity. This year, there will be no player gifts unless they are donated, and as a result, more money will be given to the Jimmy Fund.

To learn more about how to organize a charity golf tournament, please contact the Jimmy Fund Golf staff.

Patrick Palmer is the author of the recently published book entitled “A Husband’s Guide to Hands-On Caregiving – Hard-Earned Lessons for Men—and Women—Caring for a Loved One at Home”.