The ninth annual Joey Cunningham Golf Tourney Fundraiser took place at Smoky River Regional Golf Course, September 2 with a 9 am registration and a shotgun start at 10am.
Although it was an extremely wet morning and continued to rain throughout the day, forty-four players registered to comprise 11 teams for the 18-hole 4 ball, best ball event.
Those who participated in the $60 registration fee event received free hotdogs during the day and at the conclusion of the 18-hole tourney, the players enjoyed a roast beef dinner at the clubhouse.
Joey Cunningham, on whose behalf the tourney fundraiser is held, was a caring, respectful teenager heavily involved in school activities and a very promising young athlete when he was rendered in a comatose state, a condition in which he remains, due to a tragic incident 13 years ago.
At the time of the incident, which happened just prior to his seventeenth birthday, Joey was getting invitations to the major, junior hockey camps and such was his reputation as a hockey player he continued receiving invitations for a couple of years after the incident as the hockey camp organizers were unaware of his condition.
The challenges for family have been enormous, especially for his parents Vern and Patsy who have cared for Joey at home for the past 13 years.
Following a period of three months waiting day-to-day to see if he would make it, a period during which Vern and Patsy stood vigil at University of Alberta Hospital, his parents were eventually able to take him home.
“At that time it was so difficult financially because we weren’t working for 3 months. We had to wait and see if he was going to make it. So, we were in Edmonton for 3 months before finally doing a teleconference with High Prairie and they said they could look after him here.
Once they finally got Joey home, the physical, emotional and financial demands have been constant, as Joey continues to need 24-hour attention and considering the modifications needed in their home, equipment and the myriad of other supplies the financial burden is considerable.
“We had to make our own ramps and made the doors in the house wider,” says Vern. “ We need a van to transport him, we don’t have a ceiling track lift and because he’s an adult not a child it’s harder to get help, so it all adds up.”
While the annual fundraiser will sometimes raise maybe $700 or if there is an exceptionally good turnout it could be $2000 by the time the golf course fees, food and other expenses are covered it takes its toll on the funds.
“But every little bit helps because we have to take Joey to Edmonton twice a year and he needs supplies and not all his supplies are covered and there are a lot of little things that add up,” says Vern. “But, it’s is not really a moneymaking event so much as an emotional support and when people come to support us, not just Joey but all of us, it makes each day a little easier. Sometimes you need that little boost. “
Joey’s sister Stephanie Pilgrim and her husband Duane took care of getting sponsorship and prizes for the event and thanks to the generosity of many individuals and businesses in the High Prairie area a great many quality prizes were available, such at the 40’’ Smart TV won by Rachelle Bérubé from McLennan.
Doug Chalifoux’s team took first place at the tourney, which also had a random draw, gifts for close spin, longest put, longest drive, longest senior men’s drive, longest women’s drive. High Prairie businesses donated ninety percent of the Individual and team prizes and T-shirts and $50 visa gift cards were also presented.
Joey Cunningham, who was almost seventeen at the time of the incident, turned 30 years old on September 13.
“We have been trying everything to help him get better and we’ll just keep trying, we just don’t want to ever give up,” says Vern. “That why we have those fundraisers because it ‘s just that love and support and that love is more important than anything else, and I’m sure it helps Joey, I’m sure he feels it too.”