Brad Douglas shows his enthusiasm for fighting cancer as he wears a costume at the Cabin Fever Beanbag Tournament, a fundraiser for cancer research.SUBMITTED PHOTO
Brad Douglas shows his enthusiasm for fighting cancer as he wears a costume at the Cabin Fever Beanbag Tournament, a fundraiser for cancer research.

Brad Douglas is flinging cabin fever beans at the list.

"The list of extended family members who have passed away from cancer is long, way too long! It seems as though there is no end in sight," said former Spring Valley area resident and 1994 Kingsland High School graduate Douglas, an organizer of the Cabin Fever Beanbag Tournament, a fundraiser for cancer research slated this year for Saturday, March 16, at the International Event Center in Rochester. "We need to find a cure for this disease, and to do that, we need to raise a lot of money to do the research required to stomp out cancer. We feel that together with all of the people who support us, we are making a difference!"

Douglas, who now lives in Rochester and is a cardiovascular exercise technician in the cardiovascular health clinic, the echocardiography lab and nuclear cardiology at Mayo Clinic, grew up "as a farm kid outside of Spring Valley, playing horseshoes, washers and Norwegian golf" with his family, and when beanbags, or "cornhole" "became the rage," he and his friends met at one another's homes to play "makeshift tournaments." A friend hosted a neighborhood tournament at a cookout, offering a homemade trophy for the winners, and "this dawned our idea that we should do this for charity...we'd long been talking of somehow raising money for charity, and this seemed like it was in our wheelhouse - we'd raise money 'our way' and have fun doing it."

They then needed to decide on which charity to donate their funds, settling on the Eagles Cancer Telethon, "the main factor being all of our lives are touched by cancer in some way...all of us have family and friends who have been fighting and/or passed away due to this disease." Brad's grandfathers, Harold Douglas and Lawrence Fruth, each died from cancer, and his father, Butch, has battled it as well, as is his uncle, Brian Fruth. "One of our members, Heidi Gage, has battled cancer. We also liked that the money stayed close to home."

All of the proceeds from the event are donated to the Eagles Cancer Telethon, and in turn, those funds are distributed to cancer research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Hormel Institute in Austin and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Another major factor for choosing this charity, he added, is that the percentage of every dollar donated to the actual cause is quite large compared to many charities that they looked into. They also collect non-perishable food at the event and donate those items to Channel One Food Bank in Rochester to fight hunger in the community.

Hunter Mundfrom featured

The main event, at 2 p.m., will feature "Fighter & Celebrity Games" in which honorary captains - children from the area fighting cancer - will play alongside some of their idols and celebrities. One of the honorary captains is 9-year-old Hunter Mundfrom from Spring Valley. He will be playing with his partner, Minnesota Viking Marcus Sherels. Other celebrities include Slider from the Rochester Honkers, four racecar drivers who race at Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, a Secret Service agent from Washington D.C., an MMA fighter, a captain's school principal and others.

Douglas greatly admires children who brave cancer and its accompanying treatments, including Mundfrom, whom the organizer called "a strong-willed, confident, brave young man."

"To think that I wake up at a hotel and complain about having a sore neck from sleeping on a feather pillow when Hunter had to wake up from so many long, painful frustrating nights spent in a hospital bed with tubes, needles, monitors and medical stuff draped all around him. Hunter gives me inspiration," said Douglas. "If he is 9 years old and had to spend nearly 100 out of 365 days in a year at the hospital, beating down a life-threatening disease, this kid can do anything."

He stated that he "cannot express how rewarding it is to see the amazing response we get at our event each year" and that more than nine months' planning is worth the effort. "The love, the fun and the large amount of money poured out by the people attending our event is mind-blowing. And this year will be even more special having Hunter and the other honorary captains there to enjoy our day with us."

Douglas hopes that "at a minimum, we can brighten the day of our young fighters by inviting them out to enjoy a game of beanbags with someone they look up to...hopefully bring a smile to their faces...that this is one day where they can look back at and say that they had a lot of fun with us at that event."

He cited that Mundfrom and his parents are in the process of planning their own charity golf fundraiser in which half the proceeds benefit cancer research, and the other half, to a fund for children in the hospital. Douglas expressed his wish that Mundfrom receives incredible support for his mission and knows that the Cabin Fever crew is ready to lend a hand "whenever he calls." "It's really hard to say how many people our benefit has helped. All that we know is that we want to help generations of people. When we find that cure for cancer, we will have helped save many lives. We are making a difference!"

Tourney has grown

The Cabin Fever Beanbag Tournament has "evolved enormously from our first year," when there were approximately 45 beanbag teams playing in the tournament held at the Eagles Club in Rochester. "We used our own personal beanbag boards for the event. We had three eight-foot tables with some small prizes on it for our silent auction, and we recognized six sponsors that year by hanging posters with their logos on them on the walls. We were pretty happy that we were able to raise a little over $5,000 that year."

The second event was held at the Clarion Inn in Rochester, and 64 teams competed, there was a "Handsome Ransom" in which Douglas grew out his hair and beard for 15 months and auctioned off "how to cut or shave my mange" on event day, and the entire fundraiser garnered $13,000. Last year's event gathered 80 teams "who maxed our registration quota in one week after opening registration to the public." The silent auction grew to include ten tables, and 10 premier sponsors "teamed with 14 other sponsors to provide a great backbone for our event."

The most significant addition to the event to date was the addition of the Big Ticket Raffle. This raffle consisted of 15 large items on a maximum of 1,500 raffle tickets sold at $10 per ticket. With this addition, they raised $15,000 on the raffle alone. In all, they raised over $29,000 in 2012.

Douglas said the goal this year is to raise $50,000.

The tournament has outgrown the Clarion Inn and relocated to the Rochester International Event Center near the Rochester International Airport, where 128 teams will play in the beanbag tournament, and the "massive" silent auction includes a pink motor scooter, snowblower, muzzleloader rifle, handmade quilts, motorized children's John Deere Gator, Massey-Ferguson pedal tractor, autographed sporting items, Deer Creek Speedway tickets and more. Douglas continued, "We will be giving away free door prizes just for coming out to support us that day. The more non-perishable food you bring that day, the more chances you'll have to win prizes. The Big Ticket Raffle this year features 25 prizes, including a John Deere lawn tractor and pressure washer from SEMA Equipment in Spring Valley, a trip to Mackinac Island, a big screen TV, laptop, iPad, ham and bacon for a year, and much, much more."

The majority of sponsors are local, but others have contributed from the Twin Cities area, and teams competing hail from there, along with some from North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. The organizers occasionally play in other tournaments, but not in the Cabin Fever tournament because they're "way too busy with running the event and also due to not wanting to take away a spot for a team that wants to sign up and play." He credited the graciousness of the organizers of Pine Island's Dale Murray Memorial Beanbag Tournament, who invite the Cabin Fever baggers to play and sell raffle tickets for the cancer fundraiser at their event, as Murray's daughter honors her late father, a cancer patient, by running the tournament that he started many years ago.

The tournament also now has live entertainment, with "Rochester's own blues diva, Annie Mack," who will hold a CD release party for her debut album and perform at 6:30 p.m., Wykoff resident Brandon Hanson's SpinDrive will deejay and manage karaoke all day, and Big Doc Entertainment, by Doc Shipton of Spring Valley, is providing "Bar-go" free bingo from 1 to 4 p.m. Haircuts and massages will be available from The Barbershop and Lilac Wellness Center, respectively.

"It's much more than that beanbag tourney," said Douglas. "There's the huge silent auction, door prizes, a cornhole costume contest, big screen TV to watch the games in the sports lounge, a chance to win a set of custom made beanbag boards, and outstanding food and drinks. And if you still want to throw some bean bags, we'll have some on the side for you to play for fun."

Fun, but reflective

While the Cabin Fever beanbag fundraiser has a fun atmosphere, "we take a break to reflect and shed a tear or two on why we are doing this event, and honor those who are battling or have passed from this disease, but then we get back to smiles and fun because we are positive in our attitude that there will soon be a cure for cancer," said Douglas. "When our researchers finally find the cure for this disease, the impact is immense. We can be the final generation of a cancer epidemic. When you think of the bubonic plague, smallpox, and other horrific diseases that killed millions, someday in our lifetimes, we will start to remember cancer in this same breath."

Douglas reiterated that "this event is a community effort...we are a team." "We cannot give away all of the free door prizes without people walking in our doors. We cannot show the support to these brave young kids battling this awful disease without people coming out to cheer them on. We cannot sell all of these silent auction prizes for what they are worth without many generous people showing up. We cannot raise these large amounts of donations without the amazing support of our friends, families and neighbors. Please join us on Saturday, March 16. I promise that you will be impressed and enjoy yourself."

The Cabin Fever Beanbag Tournament is slated for Saturday, March 16, with the tourney action starting at 10:30 a.m. at the Rochester International Event Center, off Highway 63 south of Rochester at the Rochester International Airport. Admission is free, but non-perishable food items are accepted - the more one donates, the more door prize entries earned.

The doors open at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 16. The Fighter Match starring the Honorary Captains and celebrities is at 1:30, the Bracket Rounds for the cornholers start at 2:30 and the championship games start at 6:30. Blues-diva Annie Mack performs at 6:45 and the giant silent auction ends at 7 p.m. Everything should be wrapped up by 9 p.m.

This year's tournament roster filled up quickly, but information is being taken for a waiting list of teams who may be called upon if another team cannot fulfill their commitment for some reason.

The organizers extended an invitation to potential participants to keep abreast of future years' registration through Facebook and Twitter, or by sending e-mail addresses to the Cabin Fever mailing list. For more information on the Cabin Fever Beanbag Tournament, log onto or the tournament's Facebook page.