Beanbag inspirations

If you believe television ads, great ideas can start anywhere — a dorm room, a garage, during a bus ride. We'd respectfully add, "in a backyard while tossing beanbags." That's where the idea for the Cabin Fever Bean Bag Tournament came from, at least, and the event has raised $100,000 over the last four years for the Eagles Cancer Telethon. Brad Douglas, of Mayo's Integrated Stress Lab, explains that a group of friends had "always wanted to do something to give back to the community," and beanbag competitions were a favorite past time. So they thought, why not combine the two?

beanbagtoss760While searching for the ideal cause to donate to, the circle of friends didn't need to search far. One of them, Heidi Gage, of Mayo Employees Federal Credit Union, is a cancer survivor, and many others in the group have been affected by cancer in one way or another. So the group suggested the money raised go to cancer research.

The first year, the event garnered 50 teams and raised $5,000. The following year, it was up to 64 beanbag teams and $13,000 raised. In 2012, 80 teams raised $29,000 for cancer research. Teresa Chapman, director of the Eagles Cancer Telethon told the group, "The passion and dedication of your volunteers and organizers is amazing and excites everyone that you come in contact with. Keep up the good work because 'together we can make a difference.'"

For the first time, last year the organizers honored four local kids who are battling cancer (and kicking its butt) by making them honorary captains of the tournament. By doing this, "we brought the focus back to why we're joining forces and raising lots of money -- to get rid of this terrible disease called cancer," says Douglas. The kids played a game of beanbags in the Fighter/Survivor Round along with a local celebrity of their choice. (One of the celebs was a Secret Service agent who traveled from Washington, D.C., for the sole purpose of honoring his "fighter.") And this time, the event raised over $53,000.

And it's not just a beanbag tournament, anymore. The organizing crew (including Mayo Clinic employees Douglas and Gage, Deanna Gage [Heidi's sister-in-law], Traci Prindle, Jill Nagel and Dean Ripley) has turned the event into a full day of activities, including a silent auction, a costume contest, food and drink, spa and salon services, and live entertainment. And cancer research isn't the only winner. Those attending are also encouraged to donate non-perishable food items for the Channel One Regional Food Bank. And in five years, the event has grown so big that it had to move to the Rochester International Event Center. (Yes, a beanbag toss competition at an international event center.)

The Fifth Annual Cabin Fever Bean Bag Tournament will be March 15, and while it's too late to register to compete in the tournament (they have already reached the maximum 128 teams), fans are welcome. It's free, and there are door prizes. (And we're told your chance of winning multiplies with each food donation.) You can find all the details on the tournament's own cabin-y website.

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