ELIZABETHTOWN - Two teenage brothers faced with a life-threatening heart condition are inviting golfers from around the North Country to join them once again for a day out on the greens.
The second annual Brock and Connor Marvin Golf Tournament will be held at The Westport Country Club Friday Aug. 21, a fundraiser to support the two boys, who anticipate exorbitant out-of-pocket medical expenses.
After he suffered a heart attack in April 2008, doctors discovered 15-year-old Brock Marvin had dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes the heart to grow three times its normal size and pump blood at a rate significantly lower than the average person.
Since then, Brock's father, Walter "Smitty" Marvin III, mother Darlene Mitchell and stepmother, Margot Roemischer, have undertaken a continued effort to seek effective treatment for him, and raise funds to pay for it.
Last year's tournament, held at the Lake Placid Club, drew over 140 golfers and raised more than $12,000 for a medical trust fund set up to do just that. This year's tournament has some additional goals, however.
Last fall, the Marvins decided to have 13-year-old Connor tested for the disease, too, since it is often the result of a genetic defect. In March, doctors confirmed the test as positive.
"His heart had already started to enlarge at that time," said Roemischer, noting that the early detection will hopefully provide an advantage in treatment.
Though both boys have been able to lead a relatively normal lifestyle, they have each had pacemakers implanted to prevent cardiac arrest and have had to give up any activities that will elevate their heart rate. As a result, golf has become one of their favorite sports.
Treatment for the disease is limited, and many patients eventually require heart transplants. A new treatment involving adult stem cells has shown promising results, but is extremely expensive and not widely available.
"We want to have a monetary foundation for these boys, because they're going to have to go through this their whole lives," said Roemischer. "Health insurance will cover much of it, but not all."
Though doctors say Brock's condition has worsened, it is currently manageable through medication and his pacemaker, Roemischer said, but the family is assessing his status on a day-to-day basis and it's likely he'll need a heart transplant within the next two years.
"His whole disposition is remarkably strong and optimistic," she said, "which is huge at this point because his attitude could make or break him."
Besides golf, one thing helping to keep the boys' spirits up has been the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the national organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.
In January, the Make-A-Wish foundation granted Brock an all-expenses-paid trip with Smitty and Connor to LaQuinta, Calif. for the Bob Hope Classic, a pro-celebrity golf tournament, where he had the chance to get a lesson from golf legend Arnold Palmer.
Just weeks ago, Connor had his Make-A-Wish granted when he, together with Brock and Smitty, were flown out to Scotland to attend this year's British Open.
"He said his favorite part was walking down the 15th fairway with John Daly," Roemischer said. The trio also took some time to visit the world's oldest golf course at the nearby St. Andrews Links.
Since the foundation has done so much for their family, Roemischer said the tournament in Westport will include contests to raise funds for Make-A-Wish in addition to Brock and Connor's medical fund. Most of all, though, the event itself represents something for the boys to look forward to.
"It's just one of those little things we can do that is so huge for them," she said. "It give them a little sparkle in their eye; a little more joy in their life."
Check-in for the tournament is at 9 a.m. Aug. 21. The format will be a four-man scramble with a 10 a.m. shotgun start. An entry fee of $75 per golfer includes 18 holes of golf, cart, food, on-course refreshments and prizes. Several local businesses have already offered to contribute as green and tee sponsors, but Roemischer said more are still needed.
Pre-registration for participants, along with payment, is due by Aug. 14. More information, including an online registration application, can be found at www.brockssave.9k.com or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.