Centreville – Final numbers are still being calculated but a recent golf outing pulled together in three weeks to help a local deputy has exceeded $35,000 in fundraising efforts.
TJ Baker, Three Rivers, is a 36-year-old police officer who was faced with a life threatening decision – amputate his left arm or risk further spread of cancer and death. This news left his family in devastation.
With a wife and 4-year-old son, TJ made the decision to have his left arm amputated. “I found a lump above the elbow of my arm,” Baker recalls. A biopsy was performed and it was a rare form of cancer. “The doctor told me to have my arm taken off immediately or it would kill me.”
Stopping by the Sheriff’s Department to inform his colleagues was tough, Baker explains. Kelly Hostetler, executive director of the St. Joseph County United Way recalls that day. “I had called Captain Tim Schuler that day on another matter and I could hear in his voice something was terribly wrong.” The Captain told Hostetler, “It’s a sad day here; TJ just told us he was leaving to have his arm amputated.”
The news spread quickly through the law enforcement family. Within 24 hours, Hostetler was contacted again and was asked to assist with a golf outing for Baker.
The St. Joseph County United Way, with the help of their financial and legal team, has established a TJ Baker Fund, allowing family, friends and supporters the opportunity to give to TJ to help with medical expenses.
In the midst of the fundraising appeal, Baker was told his new prosthetic arm would cost upwards of $150,000 and he is still unsure as of today how much insurance will cover.
The golf outing filled up quickly, and donations were made exceeding all expectations. Andy Mears, Island Hills General Manager, reported it was the largest golf outing to date at their facility. “These people did in three weeks what some do in one year,” said Mears.
With the help of many people and organizations, we can proudly say we have made a positive impact on TJ’s future.
When questioned who the winning team was in the outing, Hostetler proudly says, “TJ”.
The Baker family would like to thank everyone involved in these fundraising efforts: “With your support, this fight with cancer and the amputation of TJ’s arm has become a challenge we will be able to overcome, instead of a tragedy. There are not enough words for us to express our thanks, from the bottom of our hearts.”
Donations can be made to St. Joseph County United Way, PO Box 577, Centreville, MI 49032, or by dropping by their office in Centreville.
Any questions regarding the TJ Baker Fund can be answered by Hostetler at (269) 467-9099.
Source: News release and photo from St. Joseph County United Way