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Cole's Story - A Champion of Life and Disc Golf


To become a fundraiser for the St. Jude Disc Golf Charity Invitational, please visit stjude.org/discgolf. To donate now, visit pdga.com/give.

On New Year’s Eve of 2011, my nephew, Cole, was two months old. During the night, his breathing became labored and he began coughing up blood. The on-call pediatrician assured the family, over the phone, that he was fine; that it was probably just drainage.

His mother, Caroline, still felt something was wrong and took him to the emergency room in Florence, Alabama. A nurse came to check on him, looked at Cole and immediately grabbed him and rushed him into the treatment area.

The family wasn’t sure what was happening. One moment, he’s sitting on his mother’s lap with a happy, content look on his face. The next, nurses and doctors are trying to draw blood, intubate him, and are running a variety of tests. Their efforts to draw blood failed, as there just wasn’t much blood left to be drawn.

Cole's hemoglobin level was incredibly low. The doctors were stunned that Cole was still alive. No-one at that hospital knew what was going on. No diagnosis could be offered. His doctors ordered an emergency medical transport to a larger hospital in Huntsville.

Within hours of arriving at the new, bigger hospital, Cole was seen by a multitude of doctors. His condition became more stable, but they still weren’t clear what had caused this crisis. Hours and hours passed, with no answer. But then, we met Dr. Jennifer Cox.

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Dr. Cox, a Hemotologist with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, was able to diagnose Cole with a rare disease called Diamond-Blackfan Anemia (DBA). DBA prevents bone marrow from producing the red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to all the other parts of the body.

From the day that diagnosis was made, Cole has been going to a local St. Jude clinic every 3-4 weeks to receive blood transfusions. He also has nightly, 12 hour subcutaneous infusions in his arm. Because of the risk associated with these transfusions, Cole is additionally required to travel to St Jude’s main campus in Memphis, Tennessee every six months for an MRI, as well as evaluations of his heart, liver and other organs.

Despite all this, Cole has handled his condition amazingly well and demonstrates great maturity for his age. It has now been five and a half years since that fateful New Year's Eve. It is impossible to tell you all the wonderful memories and incredible experiences our family has had with Cole. Though still very sick, he is full of life. We are constantly amazed by his incredible bravery and enduring strength as he fights this terrible disease.

Beyond Cole’s amazing character and resolve, the other critical component in this journey has been St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  Thanks to St. Jude, Cole has had the very best care, the very best doctors, the very best testing, and access to all the most advanced treatments and medicines available.

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Cole and his parents have access to a comfortable, convenient, and friendly environment where they stay during their visits to St. Jude. Everything Cole’s mother and father could have asked for and more has been made available. And through all of this, never once have they received a bill. We have been blessed beyond measure by what God has provided for Cole and our family through St. Jude.

The Doctors and staff at St. Jude really love the children they serve. The staff provides an atmosphere like no other, and they are so passionate about serving each and every child who walks through their doors. It makes life so much easier on the children and the parents. When a child with a chronic illness is excited about going in for treatment, you know you are in an incredible place.

We have all seen the commercials. We’ve watched the images roll across the screen, heard the stories, and have been moved by the kind of work St. Jude is doing for children. Yet I can assure you, that until you know someone who has walked those halls, holding their precious, sick child and hoping beyond hope to find help there, you can’t really understand how amazing St. Jude truly is.

My cousins were scared. Angry. Heartbroken. Lost. They did not know what the future would hold, or if there would even be a future for their son. The people of St. Jude offered them a place of peace and hope. In their darkest moments, St. Jude has made the unbearable, bearable. And though Cole’s fight with this disease is not over, having St. Jude in our corner has changed our family’s outlook completely.

I don’t know where we would be without St. Jude, or if Cole would even be alive. By God's grace and through the incredible generosity of St. Jude, my cousins have never had to worry about how they would afford Cole’s treatment. Our family always makes donations to St. Jude, as a way to say “thank you".  Although we could never possibly repay all that we've received, every little bit helps.

I’d like to offer my deepest gratitude to all of you who have recognized this fact and have contributed to St. Jude's work. I encourage you to continue in your efforts to help this amazing hospital and those that have dedicated their lives to serving such an amazing cause.

We are so grateful for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The impact they’ve have had on our family and the way they have changed Cole’s quality of life is immeasurable. None of this would have been possible without you, the fundraisers and the donors. Whether it is the disc golf community or the countless others around the world that give and raise so willingly.

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I’ve introduced Cole to disc golf and he has fallen in love with it. He and his friends are constantly asking to go to the courses. Hopefully one day, Cole can be a competitor at the St. Jude Disc Golf Charity Invitational. What an awesome victory that would be.  

God bless you all. Good luck this Memorial Day weekend and remember that you are serving a greater good in the midst of your competition. If you are not already involved in the fundraising effort, please join us. Disc golfers are really making a difference. We’re saving lives through this effort.

Join the Fight

$1 at a Time

Danny Thomas, who founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 1962, was a proponent of $1 from a million people vs. $1,000,000 from one person. The PDGA is nearing 30,000 active members. If everyone donates just $1, that's a huge addition to the check we will be presenting to St. Jude at the end of the St. Jude Disc Golf Charity Invitational on Memorial Day. Let’s show what disc golfers can do by donating $1 in the next week so we can collectively raise an additional $30,000 for this great partnership! To donate your $1 (or more) right now, simply go to pdga.com/give.

The Unity Disc

6 companies. 1 great cause. The Unity Disc.

This year, we're excited to announce that the push to raise money for St. Jude now includes a new initiative, The Unity Disc. For the first time in recent history, manufacturers have agreed to put their competitors’ names on their own discs, uniting their efforts to bring in as much money as possible for this amazing organization. 

DGA, Gateway Disc Sports, Innova Disc Golf, Legacy Discs, Prodigy Disc, and Vibram Disc Golf have all teamed up to produce rare runs on premium plastics, available online for $20 each.

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Each manufacturer will be producing a limited number of these St. Jude Disc Golf Charity Invitational discs. Purchasers can select their brand of choice for individual purchases or choose to purchase all six at once, meaning you will receive one from of the each manufacturers. For every disc sold, $16 will be donated directly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Please, help kids like Cole. Go to stjude.org/discgolf today and “Become a Fundraiser.”  It’s so easy to do and so impactful for these kids and their families. You can also give instantly without becoming a fundraiser by going to pdga.com/give.

This is truly the most incredible partnership this sport has ever had. What’s good for these children is in turn good for disc golf. Everybody wins, so let’s keep the donations coming!

Jonathan Ray (J-Ray) #47865 is a professional disc golfer and Dynamic Discs team member based out of Memphis, TN. Jonathan handles touring and promotion for the Dynamic Discs Two Disc Challenge Tour.

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J-Ray #47865 (left) and Flash Kingsley #21 (right)

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