Legacy is a word that is often associated with world leaders and business tycoons — teenagers and young adults, not so much. Ryan Patrick Kishbaugh died 10 years ago at the age of 19, leaving a legacy that is still changing lives and helping people. A lot if it has to do with his passion for life and his desire to help people. The rest comes from the love his friends and family share for the young man and their determination to honor his memory and celebrate his life. On July 13, the Ryan Patrick Kishbaugh Memorial Golf Tournament tees-off to celebrate the life of this amazing young man whose journey is a stellar example of a life well lived.
An exceptional athlete and scholar, Ryan graduated second in his class in high school and had been accepted to Princeton when he was diagnosed with cancer. He fought hard and even wrote a book about his experience. His family continues to celebrate his life and has supported several nonproﬁts in his honor. This year the RPK Memorial Golf Tournament beneﬁts the Carpe Diem Foundation and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“We play in July each year because it is a celebration of Ryan’s life … his birthday is July 26, 1984. The ﬁrst year it was just family gathering on his birthday and we went out to play golf so we would not drive each other crazy. Chris and Sean (Ryan’s brothers) invited a few of their friends to come along and later commented that it would be a good thing to actually have a tournament and thus the seed was planted,” said Ryan’s dad, and event organizer, David Kishbaugh. “It is still the most fun part of the whole tournament when I see the boys (now 30-ish) picking on each other and everyone else … Each year, I have chosen two charities to receive money from the tournament. Until three years ago, it was always the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and one other (Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation, Autism Society of Cumberland County, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Father’s Foundation), but a few years ago I helped a friend form a non-proﬁt foundation in order to provide college scholarships for student-athletes with chronic medical problems and support other organizations that promote education and research for diseases that affect student athletes. I became the director and the foundation changed its name to the Carpe Diem Foundation in 2012. Monies from the tournament, and other events we hope to establish, will help us create that scholarship and we plan to offer our ﬁrst scholarships in 2014.”
Carpe Diem is a Latin term meaning sieze the day. It’s a statement about making the most of every moment and living life well. It’s how Ryan chose to live and how his friends and family remember him.
According to www.lls.org, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society website, in ﬁscal year 2011 LLS invested more than $76 million in blood cancer research. “When LLS was founded in 1949, a blood cancer diagnosis was almost always fatal. Thanks in part to innovative research funded by LLS, survival rates have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled for blood cancer patients,” the website notes.
For the past several years, more than 100 people have come out to celebrate Ryan’s life. In fact, last year was the biggest turn out in the tournament’s history with 120 players.
“This year I anticipate we will be close to that,” said Kishbaugh. “That being said, there is still room for teams to register.”
The tournament is a captain’s-choice format with prizes for a hole-in-one, longest drive and closest-to-the-pin as well as a putting contest. Each player will receive a coin minted especially for the 10th anniversary of the tournament in addition to golf balls, a water bottle coozie, a T-shirt, tees and other items. Breakfast, snacks and lunch will be catered by the Invisible Chef. Brewmaster Tito Simmons will share some of his craft beverages during lunch.
While the warm summer weather can get pretty brutal, spirits remain high during the event.
“Ryan touched a lot of people during his short life. Those that come to play typically knew him personally or knew of him through someone close to him,” said Kishbaugh. “They don’t mind sweating a few pounds and suffering through the heat because as one person said it ‘Ryan (and other kids with cancer) suffered every day and if we can’t give him six hours of our life and be a little uncomfortable, then we don’t deserve to be here.’ A little harsh but a sentiment that many of us share. We are here to make a difference.”
In making a difference, Kishbaugh is adding a new feature to this year’s tournament. “We are using the event as the launch for the winter season of Team in Training, which is the LLS endurance sport fundraising arm,” said Kishbaugh. “Last year I participated in the inaugural LLS Half-Marathon in San Antonio, Texas (called HeroThon). Although I am embarrassed to say that an injury kept me from running as fast as I wanted or hoped, I have decided to run again.”
At the registration area and during lunch, there will be alumni of previous Team in Training events available to share their stories and encourage others to sign up and join in the Kiawah Island Half (or Full) Marathon in December 2013. Abby Miller, campaign director for Team in Training, N.C. Chapter will be a special guest at this year’s event. She will share the mission of Team in Training and LLS. Kishbaugh hopes that others will join him in signing up for the race and pledging to make a difference.
Already looking forward to next year’s RPK Memorial Golf Tournament, Kishbaugh is planning to add a Friday-night birthday party before the golﬁ ng begins. “Ryan would have been 30 next year,” said Kishbaugh. “I loved Ryan very much. He is my hero.”
Tee-off is at 8:30 a.m at Cypress Lakes Golf Course. Find out more about the event and register at www.2013rpkmemorial.com or visit www.facebook.com/pages/RPK-Memorial/441475325867617.
Photo: David Kishbaugh, event organizer and Ryan Kishbaugh’s dad, speaking at last year’s event.