Shortly before Kelly Jo Brookshire died, she asked her mother for a favor.
“She asked me to promise her to try to send at least one child to Camp Quality,” Susan Brookshire said.
Kelly passed away on Dec. 19, 2004, after a battle with fibrolamellar carcinoma, a rare form of liver cancer that predominantly strikes young adults. Kelly was 20 when she died.
Tall and blond, Kelly was the sort of person folks noticed when she walked into a room, Susan said. But most folks, her mother said, discovered that Kelly’s true beauty was inside.
“She was so funny, always laughing and smiling. She was just awesome,” Susan said.
In high school, Kelly’s Future Business Leaders of America group volunteered at Camp Quality. It was an event that touched her heart. Camp Quality is a local chapter of Camp Quality USA. The Joplin chapter, like its counterparts all across the country, operates a summer camp for children with cancer. Greta Murphy is the assistant director at Camp Quality. She said the camp’s goal is “to let kids be kids again.”
Camp Quality is a neat deal, is what it is.
It’s also an expensive deal. It costs about $600 for one kid to attend the camp, and the folks at Camp Quality don’t charge campers a dime to attend. Greta said families of children with cancer have enough things to worry about without having to try to scrape up 600 bucks to send a child to camp.
Not long after Kelly passed away, Susan and her oldest daughter, Stephanie Sargent, were talking about Kelly’s wish to send a child to Camp Quality.
“I told Stephanie, ‘We can do better than that,’” Susan said.
And they did.
Last year, Susan, Stephanie and Kelly’s former boyfriend, Chip Taylor, held the first Kelly Jo Brookshire One Love Golf Tournament, with the proceeds to be used to send kids to Camp Quality.
“We thought it would be a great way to get Kelly’s name out there and to help Camp Quality,” Susan said.
The bad news was that Susan, Stephanie and Chip didn’t actually know how to organize a charity golf tournament The good news was that Susan, Stephanie and Chip know a lot of people. So they started knocking on doors. They called friends, and they visited just about every business in the Joplin area.
“We would walk in, tell them about Kelly, ask them to hang a poster or to put a brochure in their business, and they all said yes,” Susan said.
A lot of those businesses did more than say yes. A lot of those businesses fielded teams to play in the tournament. A lot of those businesses donated money to the tournament. A lot of those businesses donated food and merchandise for the silent auction held in conjunction with the tournament.
Restaurants, businesses and local attorneys all chipped in, Susan said. When the final putt on the final hole of that first golf tournament had been completed, more $11,800 had been raised for Camp Quality — enough money to send 20 area children to the camp this summer.
I asked Greta if she was surprised that the golf tournament was such a success in its first year.
“That’s an unfair question,” Greta said. “Susan and I have been friends for a long time. So I wasn’t surprised when she called me and they wanted to do the golf tournament. She has done so much. She’s a phenomenal lady to have gone through what she’s gone through and still want to help others.”
The second Kelly Jo Brookshire Golf Tournament will be held Aug. 8 at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course. The cost of the four-person scramble is $200 per team or $50 per person. If you would like to play, you can dial up Susan at (417) 629-7265. The deadline for signing up is Aug. 1. If you would like to help sponsor the event, you can give Susan a call. The deadline for sponsorships, however, is Friday. If you don’t play golf but would like to help send a kid to Camp Quality on Kelly’s behalf, you can mail donations to The One Love Golf Tournament, 1906 W. 15th St., Joplin, MO 64801.