Playing cornhole for a cause

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About 50 people got together to fight cancer in an unorthodox way – by throwing bean-filled bags made of cloth at small holes cut in painted wooden boards. Participants filled the dining hall of Arden Athletic Club in Washington Saturday to play cornhole, a game that is an area tailgate party favorite.


“They get very serious about it down here,” said Sandy Ullom of Washington, a lead organizer for the event. “They play it all the time. We’ve had a pretty good turnout in the years we’ve had it, so we’ve been lucky.”


Ullom was a member of the Relay for Life team Pathway to Prevention. The event was the team’s most recent fundraiser in their yearly effort to raise money for cancer research. Last year, the team raised roughly $3,000, and it hopes to match that total this year.


Pathway to Prevention member Mary Bruno said the fundraiser was an attempt by the team to tap into what she believed was an up-and-coming pastime in the area.


“Down here, they started playing cornhole so much it became a phenomenon,” Bruno said. “We couldn’t pass it up.”


In its third year, Bruno said the cornhole tournament was just one fundraising effort for the team, which most recently included a kickball game. Unlike the bag-toss tourney, the April kickball game did not have an indoor venue to protect it from the elements.


“It poured down rain,” said Pathway to Prevention member Krystle Wise of Washington. “But we still played all day long. It was a muddy mess.”


About 12 teams of two with names like Me So Corny, The Great Cornholio, Kings of Spring and The Blind Squirrels competed in the cornhole tournament. In addition to the games, the event offered lotteries and souvenir auctions, food concessions, drinks and a bake sale, proceeds of which went to the cause.


Outside, cancer survivor Rusty Riggle manned the Arden club’s large gas grill, flipping steaks, burgers and hot dogs for hungry competitors and spectators. He showed the large treatment scar left in his back, a reminder of why the fight against cancer was so important.


“I survived cancer, twice,” Riggle said, “and my mother died from it. It’s hereditary, and she gave me her skin.”


Riggle said he hoped his fundraising efforts would make it a safer world for his daughters, who have an above-average chance of also contracting melanoma.


“Melanoma is a type of cancer you have to keep an eye on,” Riggle said. “I tell them to go get checked as often as possible.”


Riggle said it was important to stay vigilant against the disease. His diagnoses were 20 years apart, and nobody had expected it to return – including his physician.


“The doctor told me, ‘Congratulations, you hit the lottery, because the odds of you getting it twice are about the same,’” Riggle recalled


For the third year in a row, the winners of the tournament donated their prize back to the cancer fund. Nate Chadwick and Donnie Green of The Champs passed up their combined $100, as did the runners-up, team Black-and-Gold.


Although the cornhole event was lighthearted, organizers were focused on keeping the emphasis on the deadly serious fight against cancer.


“Everything we make here is to fund the Cancer Society,” Ullom said. “We raise money all year long for cancer research through the Relay for Life. We all know people that have died from cancer – friends and relatives – so this is very important to us.”


For more information on Relay for Life, visit www.RelayForLife.org.


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