John Webb Winter Golf Tournament 2007

This morning I want to get a bit personal, which I don’t usually do on this blog, but this is something important and close to my heart. Many of my readers already know that my son James Webb (step-son for you people who get technical) passed away in 2004 after a five year battle with cancer. He fought the battle with cancer with courage and faith. His father passed away early in that battle, and in 2003 some of his dad’s friends looked for a way to raise some money to help John Webb Sr.’s son. They decided on a golf tournament.

James Webb at worship, Myrtle Grove United Methodist Church
I like to remember James this way. I use it as my computer wallpaper. James is in worship at Myrtle Grove United Methodist Church and just lifts his hands and lets the music flow.

The money was supposed to have gone to help us with James’s medical bills, but those were in control at the time of that tournament, so James made the choice to have the money given to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, and particularly designated the money to the children’s morale services. James knew better than most how important morale is in fighting a life-threatening disease.

James Webb Courage in Life Award 2005
The 2005 and 2006 Courage in Life Awards were won by a group of James’s best friends who also were informally named the best-dressed team.

The other day I was going through digital video and I found a tape we had recorded shortly before James’s death. It was just before Hurricane Ivan struck here in the Pensacola area, and the marching band at Tate High School in which James had been a drummer wanted to play their fall show for him, knowing that he probably wouldn’t live to see the first performance. With Ivan approaching they were unable to do what they wanted, which was to perform on the football field in uniform, but they gathered in the band room. James could barely get himself out of bed, but we used a wheelchair and got him there, and he took the sticks and launched the band on the school fight song. It was difficult for me to watch it. That was the way he lived, and his choice for the way to go out of this world. That attitude stuck to the very last as the Tate drumline came to the funeral and escorted him to the cemetary to an upbeat, victorious rhythm.

Because of this in 2005 we first gave the James Webb Courage in Life Award each year to the team or individual that brings in the largest amount of donated money to the children through this tournament, and also to the largest single corporate sponsorship. For more information on all of this, see John Webb Winter Golf Tournament.

James Webb Courage in Life Award 2006
The best dressed team again wins the James Webb Courage in Life Award in 2006.

It’s with that attitude that we, his family, have kept the John Webb Winder Golf Tournament going. Nearly $20,000 later, the tournament continues to serve the children at Sacred Heart Hospital. The “John Webb” is now my older step-son, a professional pitcher, this year signed with the Chicago Cubs with a minor league contract and an invitation to big league training camp. (He has a few innings of big league time, but has played largely at AAA). John will be here for the ceremonial first drive. He will bring a number of his friends and they will visit the children and sign baseballs and just spend time with them. Then a bunch of regular guys and gals will play golf and the money will go to the children.

If you’d like to come to Pensacola, or you’re already here, you’ll be welcome. If you’re interested in participating, you can also donate directly to the cause. My organization, Pacesetters Bible School took the program under its wing for financial and accountability purposes from the second year. Any donated money goes directly to the children. The tournament pays all the expenses and brings in money, so there is no administrative cost whatsoever to donated money.

More importantly, I like to remember every year the challenge of living life to the full, and leaving this life as though you’re triumphantly going on to glory. That was hard for a 17 year old. I remember a day early in the summer that year when James asked me to take him to dinner somewhere. He wasn’t one for long conversations, but I knew when he said that he needed to say something. The one thing he had wanted to do before the end was march in the band for one last season, but that wasn’t to be. As we drove to the chosen restaurant, he said simply, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to march. I don’t have the strength. I need to get out of the band now, so someone who can actually march will be able to practice.” He did give his place to someone who would be able to march, but he continued to attend practice and help out with the developing program. He was more interested in seeing “his” band succeed than in his own wants.

I’d like to ask this: What am I doing to live triumphantly and make an impact? What are you doing? Maybe this particular cause is not your thing. I guarantee that there are similar needs in your own neighborhood. Be active and make a difference!

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