To the Lester family and its friends, cancer is definitely a four-letter word.
That’s why every year, they gather at the Oxford Hills Golf Club on E. Drahner Rd. to remember those they’ve lost to the dreaded disease and raise money to help find the four-letter word that will finally put an end to cancer’s reign – cure.
“I know that’s pie-in-the-sky stuff, but ultimately, that’s what we want to hear someday – they’ve found a cure,” said Lon Lester, a 1987 Oxford High School graduate who now lives in Commerce Township.
On Sunday, 144 folks participated in the 20th Annual Roy and Budd Lester Memorial Golf Scramble.
The event raised approximately $7,000 for the American Cancer Society and Brett Beiser, a 34-year-old Saginaw man who is battling Stage 4 colon cancer.
The outing honors the memories of two local brothers who died of lung cancer.
Roy E. Lester, a Korean War veteran, passed away in 1999, just months after retiring from a print shop where he had worked for about 30 years. He was a Lake Orion resident who had served on the fire department.
Budd Lester, also a Korean War veteran, passed away in 2007. A longtime resident of Lakeville, he owned Lester’s Restaurant (now Louie’s Food & Spirits) for 20 years and worked as a deputy for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office for 12 years.
The passing of these brothers turned a golf outing that had previously been a small family gathering into a crusade to stop a disease that kills indiscriminately and without mercy.
Lon, the son of Budd and nephew of Roy, explained the whole thing started after his uncle died and 20 or so family members at the golf outing decided to “pass the hat” for the American Cancer Society. They collected about $100.
“From there, it just mushroomed into what it is today,” he said. “It grew quickly. We’ve been selling out (Oxford Hills) now for well over 10 years.”
“Ninety percent of the teams have been coming (for) over 10 years,” Lon continued. “It’s the same families over and over and over. We don’t really know each other (well), but we get together one day out of the year to golf and raise money.”
Cancer is the common bond they all share.
“We’ve all lost somebody we loved because of cancer,” Lon said. “Everybody that comes to this (outing) has got their own story.”
Unfortunately, the Lester family lost another member to the disease when Vickie Kalohn, who was Roy’s daughter, died of ovarian cancer in 2014 at the age of 60.
Organizing the golf outing is truly a group effort as everyone comes together to pull it off every year.
“It’s really not me anymore that’s doing this,” Lon said. “It’s the entire family.”
Over the two decades, the outing has raised almost $90,000 for both the American Cancer Society and individuals battling cancer who have been selected by the Lester family to receive a portion of the proceeds.
According to Lon, one of the family’s goals is to “not charge a ton” to play in the outing, so as to keep it “affordable for everybody.”
The entry fee is $85 per person and includes 18 holes of golf with a cart, hot dogs and refreshments at the turn, and a full-course dinner at the end of the round.
Hearing stories of folks battling cancer deeply affects Lon, especially when they’re children.
“Every year, something tugs at me,” he said. “You realize why you’re doing this.”
This year, $3,000 from the outing’s proceeds will be given to Beiser to help with his fight for life.
“My wife and I sincerely appreciate everything they’re doing for us,” he said. “I was blown away. It brought a tear to my eye.”
Beiser, who works in sales for the Monster Energy company, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in October 2017. The doctors “found it by chance.”
“I went in because I thought I had a hernia,” he said.
A CT scan showed some “spots” on the bottom of his lungs. Further testing revealed the presence of colon cancer that had spread to his lungs and liver.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster for me and my wife,” Beiser said.
He has no family history of colon cancer and he said the only thing genetic testing determined was that “it’s a fluke.”
“They don’t know why I have colon cancer,” said Beiser, who noted the doctors told him he simply has “bad luck.”
Beiser recently completed his 20th round of chemotherapy and is preparing to head back to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on Aug. 12 to figure out what’s next.
He’s extremely grateful to the Lester family for helping alleviate some of the financial burden incurred by his battle with cancer. Even though health insurance provided through his employer is covering most of his medical bills, he must still pay travel expenses.
“We go to the Mayo Clinic once every eight weeks,” explained Beiser. This results in bills for flights, lodging and meals.
Proceeds from the golf outing will help cover some of those costs, which reduces the “stress” on Beiser and his family, and allows him to “focus on getting healthy.”
“It’s hard to put into words how much it means to us,” he said.
Beiser sees himself as “a very lucky man” to have “such a great support system” that includes family, friends, co-workers and now, all the folks from the Lester golf outing.
Moving forward, Beiser is trying to use his cancer as a way to motivate those around him to live healthier lifestyles by changing their eating habits, quitting smoking, exercising more and having regular exams like colonoscopies.
“I wake up every morning and I always tell myself I have two choices – either I can be a victim of cancer or I can go make a (difference) in other people’s lives,” he said.