Ten years ago, a group of friends in Rochester with "loads" of time on their hands decided they wanted to put all of that free time to good use by doing something to help the community. "We loved playing beanbags together so we thought, 'That's perfect,'" Steve Gage tells us.
Since then, their annual Cabin Fever beanbag tournament has grown into one of the hottest, and hardest to get, tickets in town. "We sold out in four minutes one year," Gage tells us. "So to say it's exceeded our expectations is a massive understatement."
As is, Gage tells us, the amount of money the event has raised for the annual Eagles Cancer Telethon, and in turn, cancer research at Mayo Clinic. "We raised $5,000 our first year and we were totally pleased with that," Gage says. "But as the years went on that number kept getting bigger and bigger, and our cumulative donation total right now is roughly $460,000." Not bad for a group of friends looking to turn their love of beanbags and philanthropy into something positive for their hometown medical center.
But as that old saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And due to growing families and related obligations, Gage tells us this year's tournament will be the last. The group won't be going out without a bang, however. In addition to setting their highest fundraising goal, Gage says they're setting their sights on the Guinness World Record for the largest beanbag tournament in history. As things stand, that record appears to be a gimme. "We have 192 teams pre-registered, and we also have teams on a waiting list," Gage says. "The current world record is 164 teams, so we should, by all accounts, break that."
Gage says the group also hopes to break its own record for money raised in one day to support cancer research at Mayo Clinic. "Our fundraising goal this year is $100,000, which is a big goal to say the least, but we've set our sights high," he says. "Regardless, we'll very likely break the $500,000 mark with our donations to the Eagles Telethon and Mayo Clinic, and we couldn't be prouder of that."
Nor could the group be prouder of what Gage calls the day's true "main event," the annual "Fighter Round," during which the group gives some local cancer patients the opportunity to play a game of beanbags with a personal hero of their choosing. (You may recognize some of the fighters like Hunter and Hannah — and at least one hero — from previous Loop stories.) "We're bringing back our fighters from past years so that we can tell some of their stories," Gage says. "The coolest thing about it is that we haven't lost one of them to cancer since we've been doing this. And that's what we want people to realize — that the money they're giving is making a difference. It's giving these kids and these researchers hope."
Even though this year's tournament is sold out, you can still be a part of history by participating in any number of other events this Saturday, March 16, at the International Event Center in Rochester. Before you do that, be sure to share your comments below before using the handy social media tools to share this story with others.