Roger Maris himself started a celebrity golf tournament in Fargo 37 years ago to raise money for local causes.
This year, Sanford Health and the Maris family built upon those humble beginnings to host the first Roger Maris All-Star Week.
“Dad was only able to make the first one, and he got sick (with lymphoma) during the second one, and didn’t make it to the third one, but you know … we’ve been very successful and had a lot of fun over the years with the family,” said Kevin Maris.
“And coming back and supporting the charities over the years, and to now build it into pulling more of the community involved, it was a real thrill for us. And there’s always a great joy to come back to see a lot of Dad’s friends and stuff throughout the years and just improve the community as best we can.”
Something for everyone
Once again, the Maris family led the way, this time with more community-based events for a week in mid-June. The family participated in youth sports clinics for 350 children along with other celebrities like wrestler Brock Lesnar.
The Roger Maris Week Gala helped to raise money for the cancer center. The golf tournament saw celebrities like former Minnesota Wild player Nate Prosser, and Olympic hockey gold medalist Gigi Marvin take their swings. The community was able to take in a summer night at Island Park which more than 3,000 people attended. And a throwback night at the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks game, celebrating the legacy of Roger Maris, saw the home team’s largest crowd of the season.
“Dad obviously had an amazing baseball legacy and did some amazing things with baseball,” said Roger Maris, Jr. “But you know, we’ve been doing this now going into our 37th year. I think when everything’s all said and done his true legacy will be with the Roger Maris Cancer Center, and it’ll be what he’ll be remembered for.”
Former athletes focus donations on children’s hospital
While the week itself expanded from one event on one day, Sanford was proud to announce its own expansions as well. Moorhead native, and three-time Stanley Cup champion Matt Cullen, who so generously started Cully’s Kids Cabin within Sanford Children’s Hospital, is set to create Cully’s Cottage within the Roger Maris Cancer Center.
“For us to be able to do this and partner with Sanford again is just, it’s awesome,” said Cullen. “I mean, you know, our whole goal here is just to try to reach as many kids as possible and make as big a difference as possible.”
And former Minnesota Viking Chad Greenway donated Chad’s Locker, a technology station at Sanford Children’s Hospital that helps kids have some fun during their treatment and recovery.
“We’re just trying to connect with the families that are here in the hospital,” said Greenway. “Obviously we know it’s an unfortunate circumstance that brings you here, and we wanted to find a way to be part of the solution.
“So with our locker you can find technology, laptops, Nintendo switches … iPads, PlayStation portables, all the things that can maybe bide your time, keep you busy when you’re in the hospital during the day that you probably don’t want to be here. So we’re trying to make it – any way possible – a little bit better.”
The biggest announcement though was the addition of a state-of-the-art bone marrow transplant program at the Roger Maris Cancer Center.
“We’re really excited about that for what it means for Fargo and what it means for a much broader region who depend on the Roger Maris Cancer Center,” said Bryan Nermoe, president and CEO of Sanford Health Fargo. “And we couldn’t thank the community enough for their support and making that happen.”
It is the search for cures and treatments of cancer that brought out the best in so many people during Roger Maris All-Star Week.
Dr. Carl June, Sanford Health’s 2021 Lorraine Cross Award winner for his work on stem cell lymphoma treatments, may have summed it up best. He said the first full Roger Maris Week will likely be remembered for celebrating something almost unthinkable all those years back.
“I grew up in the Bay Area with the San Francisco Giants and I have to say, I didn’t like the Yankees, but I followed as a kid, what he and Mickey Mantle did, and I have great fond memories of watching what he accomplished,” said Dr. June.
“I think keeping that alive and remembering the fact he died of a lymphoma at the age of 51, and that is exactly the disease we can now cure with CAR T-cell. So I think this completes a very large circle, and it’s a really exciting fact that, you know, there’s golf tournaments, and enlarging, bringing philanthropy in to grow new kinds of therapies is really critical for the success of the Sanford system.”
- Dr. June: Lorraine Cross Award is ‘like a dream’
- Cullen foundation announces gift for therapeutic play area
- Fargo leukemia patient receives bone marrow transplant