For Immediate Release
With photos and cutlines
LOCAL STORY: FIRST ANNUAL DON STEFFEN CHARITY GOLF TOURNAMENT raises $16,314.50 to battle ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in Knoxville area and beyond
Submitted by Renee Anderson, 218 Tecumseh Way, Loudon TN 37774
865-271-7835 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, also contact co-chairmen of the annual event :
Steve Mitchell, vice president, Avalon’s Landmark Office Association–(865) 986-4653 Ext. 207
Or Barry Miller (865) 986-4043.
When Don Steffen, one of the original residents of Avalon Golf Community in Lenoir City, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) in April of 2009, a floodgate of support poured forth from the community and across the nation. Neighbors, corporate colleagues and friends from as far away as Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, Iowa, Illinois, N. Carolina, Georgia, Florida and even England rallied behind Don and his wife of 44 years, Diann.
In just 45 days, an annual charity golf tournament had been established by co-chairs Barry Miller (Don’s friend in Avalon) and Steve Mitchell (vice president of Landmark Office Association, the governing body at Avalon). As a result of the First Annual Don Steffen Charity Golf Tournament, held May 1 at Avalon’s premier Landmark Country Club, a total of $16,314.50 was raised to contribute toward the fight against Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). About 100 golfers participated, and numerous corporate sponsors contributed to the event’s success. Even Don’s original boss with John Deere Corporation drove two days from Las Vegas to play in the tournament.
On June 16 at Landmark Country Club, the hefty proceeds were officially presented to Cheri Sanders, executive director of the Nashville-based Tennessee ALS Association headquarters. ALS Association is the only national, not-for-profit voluntary health organization dedicated solely to the fight against ALS. The mission of the ALS Association is to lead the fight to cure and treat ALS through global, cutting-edge research, and to empower people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing compassionate care and support.
The Steffens, along with other ALS victims and families in the Knoxville area and beyond, are living with the surreal knowledge that for every 90 seconds, an American dies of ALS, while another is stricken with the progressive, ultimately fatal, neuromuscular disease. ALS robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe, even while the mind remains unaffected. The disease is named for New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig, who played in 2,130 consecutive games before ALS forced his premature retirement in 1939. Gehrig died two years later at the age of 37.
In behalf of the ALS cause in Tennessee, Ms. Sanders expressed great appreciation for the proceeds raised through the golf tournament. She said defeating ALS is a must. She said the monies will be used in providing support, supplies and services for those in Tennessee suffering with ALS as well as national research to find treatments and a cure.
Co-chair Barry Miller, of Acquisitions Strategies LLC, said the idea of the annual charity golf tournament named for Don Steffen came on a fishing trip with Don’s son Brian, who lives in Tampa, FL. From there, Miller filed the proper paper work with the Tennessee IRS, and the Annual Don Steffen Charity Golf Tournament was born. For the next 45 days, an explosion of public and corporate support ensued. The Rush, where Don and Diann used to work out routinely, became a major sponsor, among a host of others that donated funds, prizes and other means of support to the event.
“There are so many sponsors, we can’t even begin to recognize them all, but it was all very much appreciated and has gone to a great cause,” Miller said.
Co-chair Steve Mitchell explained further, “When we found out about our friend Don’s situation, how could we not act right away? People came out of the woodwork to support Don and Diann. Here at Avalon, our social groups, even groups like the Poker Club, sponsored a hole or contributed in other ways to the event’s success. Avalon Golf Properties provided hats and made several other contributions as well. Everyone’s support has been phenomenal.”
Supporting the Steffens was a natural thing to do. After all, Don and Diann Steffen settled into their home located on the #2 tee box in Avalon 13 years ago. They made friends easily, having been high school sweethearts who have been married for 44 years. Brian, their son, resides in Tampa and daughter Angela lives in Las Vegas. Don is the retired Director of Marketing and Sales with John Deere Corporation, having served in Waterloo, IA, Moline, IL. Columbus, OH, Raleigh, NC and later, Knoxville.
Barry and Judy Miller have been best friends with the Steffens since they met in 1999 as new Avalon residents. Mrs. Miller said, “The Steffens are a wonderful couple and wonderful friends. They are facing Don’s illness head-on with remarkable character and a visionary attitude. They live with smiles on their faces, despite the ALS. They are so appreciative of their remaining time together and are making the best of every moment.”
Diann Steffen is Don’s loving caregiver, wife and soul mate. She remembered how eerie it was for she and Don to receive the diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s Disease in the neurologist’s office.
“You see,” she explained, “I was fifteen years old when Don and I met. He was sixteen. We went together four years before we were married. In high school, Don was a baseball player, and he had read a book about Lou Gehrig. I remember that he had made the comment way back then that he would never want to be diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, because it was so horrible. So when the doctor told us he had ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, we knew just what that was. We both were in shock! We actually waited two months before we could fly to each of our children to tell them in person as we did not want to give them this kind of news over the telephone.
“Once we told our children, we started telling our friends. Keeping this to ourselves for two months was unbelievably hard on both of us. We want the Knoxville area to become more and more aware of ALS and the devastation it brings to the patients, family, and friends. Just like Don and I were when we were kids hearing about Lou Gehrig’s disease, we just sloughed it off, ‘It would never happen to us’. But what the public needs to realize is that ALS does not have a cause and it can strike anyone. We have to spread the word and find a cure.”
Don said of his friends, “I just want to say how amazing it is that Barry and Steve put this tournament together in just 45 days. I’m so appreciative of their time and energy and for making this the best possible success. We want to continue to raise money and awareness of ALS. I am going to use the time I have left to get the word out about this disease and tell them we’ve got to find some answers,” Don said with a wide smile, though he is now wheelchair-bound and unable to use his dominant right hand.
“Folks in the Knoxville area don’t know about ALS or where to turn when it strikes,” Don continued. “I don’t want them to flounder around like fish out of water for six months like Diann and I did. When we got the diagnosis, it was a shock, and we didn’t know where to turn, because it seemed nobody could help us. But this happens every time someone new is diagnosed with ALS. It is a ruthless, phantom disease that has baffled the medical world since the famous baseball player Lou Gehrig’s diagnosis first drew attention to the affliction in 1939.”
He added, “It can hit anybody, at any time. If you have ALS, get to an ALS Clinic like the one at Duke University. Neurologists inform you of the diagnosis, but they don’t have any answers. No treatment options are available. So get to a clinic as soon as you can. When that diagnosis comes, folks need to know where to find resources. Caregivers like my wife Diann need supplies and support too. I’m going to stay in the fight and get the word out. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Baby!”
Indeed, Don is currently learning how to use a specialized computer that will help him continue working on the ALS cause even as the disease robs him of more motor abilities and even his ability to speak. He is working with the John Deere Foundation to publicize the facts on ALS and appeal for ALS research dollars. Their daughter Angela started a website of their incredible journey: https://steffen5.wordpress.com
“This golf tournament is NOT a one-time deal,” Steve Mitchell said. “We are just getting started. We will be working on the second annual charity golf tournament this fall, and next year’s tournament (to be held in May or June at Landmark) will be bigger and more profitable. Furthermore, we’d like to issue a challenge to Tellico Village and other golf communities in the greater Knoxville area to host tournaments to help us heighten awareness of ALS in the Knoxville area, identify the cause and find the cure.”
For more information on becoming involved in the fight to defeat ALS, log onto www.alsatn.org. To become involved in The Second Annual Don Steffen Charity Golf Tournament, please call Steve Mitchell at 865-986-4653 Ext. 207.
Cheri Sanders, executive director of Tennessee’s ALS Association, announced that The First Annual Knoxville Walk to Defeat ALS will be held at Victor Ashe Park on Saturday, October 16, which is another local opportunity for supporting loved ones and friends in East Tennessee and beyond who are afflicted with ALS. Registration will open at 9 a.m. and the walk will begin at 10 a.m. at Victor Ashe Park, 4901 Bradshaw Road (off Western Avenue) in Knoxville.
The Walk to Defeat ALS is the ALS Association’s national signature event. Each year, over 100,000 people including ALS patients, families, friends and corporate leaders join together to raise funds in support of ALS causes, including community-based patient services and cutting-edge research. Now in its eleventh year, about 150 Walks were held around the country in 2009. This year is the first year of the Knoxville Walk and the Chattanooga Walk.
Those interested in registering as walkers, team captains, or corporate sponsors may log onto www.alsatn.org Walks will also be held in Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis and Kingsport this fall. To serve locally on the steering committee for the Knoxville Walk to Defeat ALS, please contact Cheri Sanders at email@example.com or 615-279-5551.