Personal battles continue to inspire golf tourney

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

WEST POINT – Seventeen years ago, four Tupelo friends were inspired to Take A Swing at Cancer.
Over the past 17 years, the golf tournament has raised more than $1 million to aid those fighting cancer through the NMMC Cancer Patient Assistance Fund, which helps people in 22 counties in North Mississippi and Western Alabama. The tournament has grown into a destination event at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point.
“The tournament has been tremendously successful,” said Dean Hancock, president of the Health Care Foundation of North Mississippi, which administers the fund. “But Old Waverly has certainly kicked it up several notches.”
A chance to play on a championship course is one many golfers covet.
“It goes beyond the event,” said Chris Jester, Old Waverly director of golf operations. “You get the full Waverly experience.
However, assisting people with their personal battles against cancer is at the heart of the event.
Old Waverly founder George Bryan and his family know the trials of those battles too well. Bryan, past president of Bryan Foods and former chief executive of Sara Lee Foods, offered a very personal testimony during the 2012 Take a Swing at Cancer tournament about how breast cancer took his sister, Kitty Bryan Dill.
“We were all touched by her cancer,” Bryan said. “She lived two or three years longer than they thought she would. … It still seems like yesterday.”
Earlier this year, Bryan’s daughter-in-law, Amy Bryan, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer was detected in an early stage, and she has a good prognosis, especially with the advances in breast cancer treatment in the past 20 years.
Dill was diagnosed in 1985, and initially, it seemed surgery was successful. But the cancer reappeared in 1986 and took her life in 1990.
“If they knew then what they know now, I feel my mother would be alive,” said Dill’s daughter, Mary Margaret Case.
The mission of the tournament and Dill’s legacy of community contributions come from the same spirit of service.
“She would be pleased,” to see Take a Swing at Cancer at Old Waverly, Case said.
Dill and her husband, former West Point Mayor Kenny Dill, were tireless advocates for West Point. She founded the first kindergarten in Clay County and the United Way in West Point.
“She was a go-getter,” said Bryan, and she continued her work even after her diagnosis.
Take a Swing at Cancer helps the assistance fund to provide patients in need the essentials to keep them going in their fight against cancer, such as pain and anti-nausea medications, nutritional supplements and transportation to treatment.
The need is tremendous. In 2012, the fund assisted about 500 patients, and spends about $220,000 annually.
“The cancer patient assistance fund bridges the gap for patients who don’t have resources,” said NMMC Cancer Center social worker Cindy Edwards. “Without the fund, there are many patients who wouldn’t be able to get to their radiation treatments or afford the medicines that help them get through their treatment.”
michaela.morris@journalinc.com

Take A Swing At Cancer
WHEN: 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. May 20

WHERE: Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point

BENEFITS: NMMC Cancer Patient Assistance Fund

COST: $250 per player for four-person scramble. Includes 11 a.m. lunch and 6 p.m. reception. Stay-and-play available for $99

MORE INFO: Call (662) 800-843-3375 or www.nmhs.net/hcf.php