Roger Maris All-Star Week expands its namesake’s legacy

Roger Maris himself started a celebrity golf tournament in Fargo 37 years ago to raise money for local causes.

This year, Sanford Health and the Maris family built on those humble beginnings to host the first Roger Maris All-Star Week.

“Dad was only able to make it to the first, and he got sick (with lymphoma) during the second, and didn’t make it to the third, but you know… we’ve been very successful and had a lot of fun over the years with the family ,” said Kevin Maris.

“To come back and support the charities over the years, and to build it out now to attract more of the community involved, it was a real thrill for us. And it’s always a great joy to come back to see many of my dad’s friends and stuff over the years and improve the community as best we can.”

For each his own

Once again, the Maris family led the way, this time with more community-oriented events for a week in mid-June. The family participated in youth sports clinics for 350 children, along with other celebrities such as wrestler Brock Lesnar.

The Roger Maris Week Gala helped raise money for the cancer center. The golf tournament saw celebrities such as former Minnesota Wild player Nate Prosser and Olympic hockey gold medalist Gigi Marvin make their mark. The community enjoyed a summer evening at Island Park, where more than 3,000 people attended. And a throwback night at the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks game, celebrating the legacy of Roger Maris, saw the biggest crowd of the season for the home team.

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“Dad obviously had a great baseball heritage and did great things with baseball,” said Roger Maris, Jr. “But you know, we’re doing this now in our 37th year. I think when all is said and done, his real legacy will be with Roger Maris Cancer Center, and that’s what he’ll be remembered for.”

Former athletes direct donations to children’s hospital

As the week itself grew from one event to one day, Sanford was also proud to announce its own expansions. Moorhead-born and three-time Stanley Cup champion Matt Cullen, who so generously started Cully’s Kids Cabin at Sanford Children’s Hospital, will create Cully’s Cottage at Roger Maris Cancer Center.

“For us to be able to do this and work with Sanford again is just, it’s great,” said Cullen. “I mean, you know, our whole goal here is just trying to reach as many kids as possible and make as big a difference as possible.”

And former Minnesota Viking Chad Greenway donated Chad’s Locker, a technology station at Sanford Children’s Hospital that helps kids have fun during their treatment and recovery.

“We’re just trying to connect with the families who are here at the hospital,” Greenway said. “Of course we know it’s an unfortunate circumstance that brings you here, and we wanted to find a way to be part of the solution.

“So with our locker you can keep technology, laptops, Nintendo switches… iPads, PlayStation portables, all the things that can bide your time, keep you busy if you’re in the hospital during the day you probably don’t want to be here . So we’re trying to make it a little bit better – in whatever way we can.”

Life-saving treatment

The biggest announcement, however, was the addition of a state-of-the-art bone marrow transplant program at the Roger Maris Cancer Center.

“We’re really excited about that because of what it means for Fargo and what it means for a much wider region that relies on the Roger Maris Cancer Center,” said Bryan Nermoe, president and CEO of Sanford Health Fargo. “And we couldn’t thank the community enough for their support and making that possible.”

It’s the search for cures and treatments for cancer that has brought out the best in so many people during Roger Maris All-Star Week.

dr. Carl June, winner of Sanford Health’s 2021 Lorraine Cross Award for his work on stem cell lymphoma treatments, may have summed it up best. He said the first full Roger Maris week will likely be remembered for celebrating something almost unimaginable all those years ago.

“I grew up in the Bay Area with the San Francisco Giants and I have to say I didn’t like the Yankees, but as a kid I followed what he and Mickey Mantle did, and I have fond memories of watching what he accomplished, said Dr. June.

“I think keeping it alive and recalling the fact that he died of lymphoma at age 51 is exactly the disease we can now cure with CAR T cell. So I think this comes full circle, and it’s a really exciting fact that there are golf tournaments, and increasing, bringing in philanthropy to grow new types of therapies, is really critical to the success of the Sanford- system.

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Posted in Cancer, Cancer Treatments, Community, Company News, Fargo, Foundation, Lorraine Cross, News, Sports Medicine

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