Golf tournament helps keep cancer patient’s memory alive

Kerry and Jay Dion grew up playing golf together. The boys’ stepfather introduced them to the sport at a young age, and they were hooked. From golfing at Cohasse Country Club with family to attending PGA Tour events, golf was the great connector for them and their three siblings.

Sadly, the boys’ stepfather passed away from cancer – and it wouldn’t be the Dions’ last experience with the disease.

In 2016, Jay, 52, the oldest sibling and father of two, was diagnosed with NUT midline carcinoma, a rare, incurable cancer, after experiencing pain in his left shoulder and back. He was treated at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, but sadly died from this aggressive disease in just 11 short weeks.

“No one has ever lived with this type of cancer, and that’s really scary,” says Kerry. “We want to fight this disease so other families don’t have to live without their brother.”

Soon after Jay’s death, Kerry and a group of Jay’s friends came together to start the Friends of Jay Dion Memorial Golf Classic to celebrate Jay’s life and love of golf, while raising crucial funds to support NUT midline carcinoma research at Dana-Farber, led by Geoffrey Shapiro, MD, PhD.

The first tournament, held May 25, 2017, took place less than a year after Jay’s death and one week after what would have been his 53rd birthday. It was emotional for Kerry and all attendees, with feelings amplified by a day-long rain storm. Despite the less than ideal golf weather, not one person left, Kerry recalls, and the party went on for hours.

“The tournament made me realize he really is gone,” Kerry reflects, “but it was very therapeutic being around other people who loved Jay; it was great, but sad.”

The Friends of Jay Dion Memorial Golf Classic – part of Jimmy Fund Golf presented by Mohegan Sun – raised more than $54,000 in its first year, and helped form a NUT midline carcinoma research center at Dana-Farber, the first center of its kind. The committee aims to raise even more at their second event on May 24.

Golf had a lot to do with the brothers’ relationship; they could often be found playing together on several golf courses in Central Massachusetts. Kerry plans to run this tournament in Jay’s honor for as long as he can.

“Jay always said to surround yourself with smart and dedicated people, those who bring out the best in you and challenge you to make yourself better; that’s who makes up this successful committee,” Kerry says. “We want to keep his spirit alive through this tournament.”

Learn how you, too, can honor a loved one through your own Jimmy Fund Golf tournament, golf marathon, or mini golf event, and save the date for the third annual Sunrise to Sunset Jimmy Fund Golf Tournament Oct. 15.