When cancer claimed the life of Herbert J. Block in May 1981, the respect, love and determination of his wife, Maxine, five children and countless friends turned this personal tragedy into a triumph. They transformed their grief into a powerful force that more than 30 years later continues to energize and inspire individuals and corporations, here and across the country, to support cancer prevention, detection and treatment.
The Herbert J. Block Memorial Tournament was founded in 1982 by Herb’s wife, the late Maxine Block, and children, Janis Block, Jeff Block, Julie Block Glassman and Jeri Block, who live in the Columbus area, and Jay Block of Englewood, Colorado. They are the architects of this remarkable effort, which has raised more than $5 million for the OSUCCC – James. What started as a tournament memorializing Mr. Block, co-founder of Sun Television and Appliances, devoted family man and community supporter, has turned into a family legacy.
Initially the tournament was held at Winding Hollow Country Club in Columbus. “Everything was done by family and friends,” recalls Jeff. “We invited Dad’s business associates to participate and donated the proceeds to what was then Ohio State’s department of oncology.” Along with organizing the golf outing, family and friends arranged a kickoff party and secured donations.
During the 1990s, the Block family developed a remarkable partnership with the OSUCCC – James. As the hospital gained momentum, the Block Memorial Tournament followed suit. Committee members began attracting more sponsors and golfers and ventured to new locations, all the while increasing tournament revenue to support the cause at the heart of it all. “Our goal is to help beat cancer and create the best of the best in treatment and facilities,” says Julie. Since 2009, the tournament has benefited the construction of the new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Their determination and commitment became all the more poignant when the Block children lost their mother, Maxine, to cancer in 1998. Because of their unwavering commitment to create a cancer-free world, the Block family established the Herbert and Maxine Block Memorial Lectureship for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer with proceeds from the tournament.
“The lectureship honors the memory of our parents and also attracts internationally renowned clinicians and researchers who share the latest advancements,” explains Jeri. The lectureship draws outstanding talent to Ohio State, sometimes permanently. Carlo Croce, MD, for instance, received the award in 2004 when he was director of the Kimmel Cancer institute/Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Medical College, part of the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He subsequently joined Ohio State, where he serves as director of human cancer genetics.
On June 15, 2015, the golfers will take to the links for the 32nd time!
With these milestones comes a sense of nostalgia, says Janis, “remembering the early days of sitting around the kitchen table, planning visits and sending letters to potential supporters.” Thirty-two years later, the planning committee remains as determined as ever and continues to devote countless hours toward the cause. Year after year and link after link, the Block Memorial Tournament remains a family-driven event deeply rooted in the Columbus community. The Ball Drop One of the most anticipated highlights of tournament day is the signature Ball Drop, a unique fundraising idea conceived by Jeff Block. Combining his love of flight with raising money for Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James), Jeff created a bucket device that is specially designed to drop golf balls from the side of his helicopter. Those who wish to support the OSUCCC – James, and try their luck, can purchase a numbered ball. After all the balls are dropped, the closest to the hole wins $2,000! Watching hundreds of golf balls fly from the sky is quite a sight to see on tournament day! This highly awaited event has come a long way since its inception at the 1999 Block Memorial Tournament, when 300 golf balls were dropped onto the green. In 2013, the tournament featured 630 golf balls for the largest drop yet! Over the years, this component of the tournament has raised $100,000, and a few of the winners were Rick Germain, Brian Doyle, Bill Farrar and the Winding Hollow Pro Shop Team. Each ball costs $20, with proceeds supporting the work of the OSUCCC – James. Balls are available for purchase in the weeks leading up to the tournament as well as tournament day. The winner does not need to be present to win.