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June 10, 2011
Dana-Farber staff honors 'Jimmy' through annual golf tournament

Sandy Eskin and Herbie Aikens

Even a broken foot could not keep event co-chair Sandy Eskin of Dana-Farber (here with fellow attendee Herbie Aikens) away.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute staff members are used to doing their part to fight cancer in clinics, labs, and offices. On Tuesday, June 7, however, more than 50 employees took a different "course" to a cure by teeing up in the 10th annual Jimmy Memorial Golf Tournament.

Started in memory of Einar Gustafson, the original "Jimmy" for whom the Jimmy Fund was named, the event at Juniper Hills Golf Course in Northboro, Mass., is one of more than 150 being held this year through Jimmy Fund Golf to support research and care at Dana-Farber.

In addition to a fun day on the links, the event offered employees the chance to give back to Dana-Farber in a different way while honoring one of its iconic figures.

Jimmy Fund Golf has since raised more than $80 million for Dana-Farber since its inception in 1983. The Jimmy Memorial is one of the program's highest-earning tournaments, with more than $596,000 collected over nine years. Sandy Eskin, who serves as co-chairman of the annual event when not working as a business manager in Research Administration at Dana-Farber, says her all-volunteer committee hopes to raise its cumulative total to $675,000 with this year's event through sponsors, player fees, and event fundraising activities including an auction, contests, and a Texas-style barbeque.

"This is a great chance to enjoy time with your colleagues away from work and at the same time support our mission to help eradicate cancer," says Eskin, whose committee also helps arrange for corporate sponsors to support the tournament. "We have players and sponsors who have been with us every year, and it’s truly become a labor of love to put it together. Plus it's a great way to remember someone very important in Dana-Farber history."

Instilling hope

Gustafson family

Gustafson's family on hand for the tournament included (left to right) Matty Clauson (in baseball cap), Bill MacLeod, Lynn MacLeod, Connor MacLeod, Samantha Patti, Lisa Patti, and Phyllis Clauson.

Gustafson, a soft-spoken truck driver and grandfather of six who emerged from decades of anonymity (and assumed death) to help the Jimmy Fund celebrate its 50th anniversary in 1998, spent the rest of his life delighting "fans" of all ages by appearing at Dana-Farber events. After he died in January, 2001 at age 65 after a stroke, Eskin and a group of fellow Dana-Farber staff members felt they wanted to honor him in some way – and the Jimmy Memorial Golf Tournament was created.

While Gustafson did not golf himself, his daughters Lisa Patti and Lynn MacLeod remember him attending several Jimmy Fund Golf tournaments after stepping forward as Jimmy. The family has been an integral part of this event since its beginnings; Patti and MacLeod are on hand each year, and assorted grandchildren, nephews and nieces, son-in-laws, and even Gustafson’s sister, Phyllis Clauson, have all grabbed clubs and joined the action at one time or another.

"I'm a terrible golfer, so now I just drive the cart," says MacLeod with a laugh. "My son Connor has played in the tournament for several years, and this year my niece Samantha took part for the first time. We always manage to have a foursome."

Adds Patti: "I feel his ongoing legacy is to instill a sense of hope for survival in patients. To see some of the same faces here every year is heart warming. Their dedication and commitment in striving to eradicate cancer is fierce."

To learn more about Jimmy Fund Golf, please visit www.jimmyfundgolf.org.

— Saul Wisnia
saul_wisnia@dfci.harvard.edu