For a guy who is hosting a golf tournament in a week, Chris Keller sounds remarkably calm.
I told Chris that running a golf tournament for the second time must be a lot easier than it was his first time through.
“It seems like,” Chris said with a chuckle. “The struggle is getting people to commit to playing, but it does get easier as it goes.”
So far, Chris has persuaded 80 people to play in the second annual Marshall Dean Keller Memorial Golf Tournament, which will be held Friday, Aug. 3, at the Carthage Municipal Golf Course.
His first attempt at running a golf tournament was last year, and with little experience he managed to raise $16,100 for SIDS Resources, a not-for-profit group that helps families affected by sudden infant death syndrome.
Chris is from Parsons, Kan., where I spent some time and where my brothers still live. He was the manager of the Comeau Jewelry store in Joplin, and I gave Chris a lot of money in exchange for things my wife wanted.
Over time, Chris and I discovered our Parsons connection and found that we knew a lot of the same people. It was several months after I met Chris that I learned of his interest in raising money for the SIDS program. Marshall Dean Keller was Chris and Jamie’s first child. He died of SIDS when he was 3 1/2 months old.
Over the past 20 years, the number of SIDS-related deaths has dropped dramatically, but still thousands of babies die from it every year. Researchers have yet to determine exactly why it happens. What is known is that SIDS often strikes infants between 2 and 4 months of age, and that almost all SIDS deaths occur without warning.
After Marshall’s death, Chris and Jamie participated in a number of events to raise money and awareness for SIDS. Doing that, I think, helped them deal with Marshall’s death. It also brought them into contact with other people who had suffered the same unimaginable loss that they had.
Recently, Chris and Jamie have met a number of couples who have suffered through the stillbirth deliveries of children, and those stories also have had an impact on them.
They found a way to focus on SIDS and stillborn children through an organization called First Candle, a national not-for-profit dedicated to ensuring safe pregnancies and the survival of babies through the first years of their lives. First Candle works to eliminate stillbirths, SIDS and other unexpected infant deaths.
For Chris, the connection with First Candle has come full circle. He belongs to an organization of independent jewelers, and the year Marshall died, the group at one of its annual meetings raised $30,000 in Marshall’s name and donated it to First Candle.
“That was our first time dealing with First Candle, and we thought it would be nice to go back to them this year,” Chris said.
If you would like to take part in the Marshall Dean Keller Memorial Golf Tournament, you have time. The cost for a two-person team is $100 per golfer, and includes a free lunch, cart and green fees and a tournament gift bag. For more information or to enter the tournament, people may call 620-719-9795.
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