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Testicular Cancer is my lemon. Raising nearly $2 million dollars, to date, to benefit many different cancer organizations – through a foundation I started – is my lemonade.
My name is Bob Hammer. I am a two-time cancer survivor, and founder of the “Have a Ball” Golf Tournament in Northern California benefiting 20 local and national cancer institutes.
Cancer is a word I unfortunately have been very familiar with for, literally, as long as I can remember. My Mon died on Christmas Day in 1977 when I was 9. Needless to say Christmas has never been quite the same.
Fast-forward to October of 1999, with a daughter expected in weeks. I felt what appeared to be a rock in my testicle while in the shower. I was diagnosed with very early stages of testicular cancer. I went to the doctor and, within a couple days, my testicle was removed. I was told I should be “good to go”. I got a CT-scan the following May and it is clear. Excellent news.
By September (12 weeks later), I was experiencing some pretty strong back pain, but chalked it up to my activities. I was a track and field coach for a high school team and was playing softball with the guys 3 nights a week.
That December, while wrapping a present for my 13-month-old daughter, I collapsed. The cancer had spread into a “very large cantaloupe sized tumor in my chest with a long cucumber stretching into my neck”.
I started chemotherapy the next day. I literally could not wait 1 more
day…and it was extremely aggressive chemotherapy. I found out on my 5-year “cancerversary” that my oncologist told my wife Kim that first night that I had about a 15% chance of making it.
Starting that night, in the oncologist’s office, Kim was my freakin’ rock. Through 26 rounds of chemo (and I’m talking 6 hours each round) Kim not only took care of me, but of our 1-year-old daughter.
In April 2001, after finishing 26 rounds of chemotherapy, I raised enough money to participate in Lance Armstrong’s (a relatively un-known American cyclist at the time) Annual “Ride for the Roses” event in Austin, TX. I went because he had testicular cancer like me. More importantly, while there I was introduced to Lance’s oncologist, Dr. Craig Nichols.
Lance hired Dr. Nichols because he was one of the best in the world. Dr. Nichols sat for over an hour and talked with me about my situation, and I faxed all my information to him the following Monday. This was now one day before a scheduled surgery that four Stanford oncologists told me I needed or I would die. The surgery also would have prevented me from having any other children.
Long story short, I did not have that surgery, and Josh Hammer, who was conceived naturally after testicular cancer, was born in 2003.
As a tribute and to give back to my oncologist and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, who without their help my son would not be here, I decided I would try my hand at a golf tournament. I wanted to raise $2,500.00 and have a few beers with some friends. I had a plan.
My “plan” worked a bit better than I thought. I ended up raising $52,000.00 that first year. Part of my plan included coming up with a cool name. As a testicular cancer survivor, I decided “Have a Ball” seemed to fit me pretty well. Our events are now one of the largest non-celebrity privately held golf tournaments in the nation, raising over $1,850,000.00 for cancer research since 2005.
In 2014 alone, our events hosted 596 participants, 56 corporate sponsors, 210 corporations were involved and we raised $291,000.00 for cancer. We donated funds to 20 different cancer organizations in 2014 which are listed at the bottom of the home page of our website:
Awesome….really, truly awesome. Kim and I have raised $1,850,000.00 out of our garage since 2005. (!) We both have regular jobs aside from this. I have coached both my kids in every sport they have ever done from t-ball to when both my kids were All-Stars and I coached both teams. (Okay, so I’m proud of my kids…;) )
Some of the crazy-cool accomplishments of the Have a Ball Foundation since our inception in 2005:
- Sent over 85 children with cancer to attend Camp Okizu, a camp for kids with cancer in Novato, Ca.
- Donated over $375,000.00 to the Livestrong Foundation to provide grants for cancer research and programs.
- Created, established and have awarded 9 Oncology Nursing Scholarships in honor of Dr. Fred Marcus (my oncologist) through Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, CA, and the U.C.S.F. Nursing Program.
- Formed Cancer Alliance Program with the same Sequoia Hospital to raise awareness for cancer through TV, radio, billboard and pamphlets that will be distributed in several hospitals.
The Have a Ball Foundation has received several community awards since our inception in 2005:
- 2013 “Threads of Hope” award recognizing “outstanding community volunteers” through Diablo Magazine
- 2013 “Jefferson Award” for public service through KPIX CBS5
- 2012 “Go To Bat For Your Community” award presented by State Farm and the San Francisco Giants
- 2011 “Community QB” award presented by the San Francisco 49ers
- 2011 “Northern California Cancer Survivor Making a Difference” presented by Breakaway From Cancer
- 2010 American Cancer Society Bay Area Gala Honoree
- 2007 “Northern California Cancer Survivor Making a Difference” presented by Breakaway From Cancer
So…if life turns sour, add a little sugar (thanks for being there Kim) and attack. Make your mind think: I “Gotta Make Lemonade”
The Have a Ball Golf Tournament: chipping away at cancer, one ball at a time