Joey Sudo’s cancer has returned.
The plucky 11-year-old was first diagnosed with Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor, a rare form of childhood cancer, in 2007 when he was a student at Windsor Farm Elementary School. After aggressive treatment, his family was hopeful that he beat the disease but, last year, it came back. Again, Joey faced the rigors of radiation treatment for the tumor growing on his neck at a hospital in Houston, TX.
As his medical bills mounted, friends organized a benefit golf tournament that raised more than $12,000. Unfortunately, conventional treatments failed to keep the cancer at bay. This summer, Joey was diagnosed with another recurrence, leaving the family with experimental treatments as their only option.
This latest diagnosis has led to a greater sense of urgency surrounding the second annual Joey Sudo Golf Tournament set for this Friday, Sept. 16, at Compass Pointe Golf Course in Pasadena. Organizers have set a goal to reach the maximum of 144 players and raise $20,000 through the effort.
“We’re hoping to sell out,” said Ashley DeWitt, Joey’s soccer coach for the Cape Cougars, who launched the tournament with friend Mandi Tabor. Fliers posted around town carry the headline: “Livin’ on a Prayer: Help Joey Beat Cancer.”
Although everyone knows they’re playing for a serious purpose, participants in the four-man best ball tournament have a great time in Joey’s honor, DeWitt said. The event coincides with September as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
“It’s a really positive day. They’re there to have fun and support him as well. It’s nice for his family to see so many people there in one place to support him.”
Joey’s mother, Suzanne Sudo, said the event typifies the outpouring of community support the family has received since Joey’s diagnosis at age 7.
Help has come from many directions, including friends, neighbors and total strangers. Major supporters include their church, St. Andrew by the Bay, O’Loughlin’s Restaurant and Fado Irish Pub in Annapolis. On Saturday, their neighborhood of St. Margaret’s Landing held a “Jumping for Joey” fundraiser, complete with a moon bounce and children’s games.
Despite the setback in Joey’s condition, his family—mother, Suzanne, father, Joe, and sister, Jessica, 9—is soldiering on, with Joey leading the way. This summer, he had fun at a sleepover camp for kids with cancer. This fall, he’s back on the soccer field and back in class as a sixth-grader at Severn River Middle School.
“He’s so excited about middle school. That’s a new experience for him,” said Suzanne. About his new round of treatments, which started in July at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, she said, “He’s rolling with it. If you were to see him, you would not know he’s the kid that’s had cancer for the third time.”
Golfers on Friday are likely to spot Joey rolling by in the beverage cart, waving. He’s given the star treatment at the tournament. Last year, he had his picture taken with a giant check representing the proceeds.
“He sucks it up,” said his mother, with a laugh.
Registration and breakfast begin at 7 a.m., with tee-off at 8:30 a.m. at the course located at 9010 Fort Smallwood Rd. in Pasadena.
The cost is $125 per player which includes: entry into all events, 18 holes of golf, riding cart, breakfast, dinner, beverages (soda, water, Gatorade, domestic beer and margaritas) and various awards, including for the longest drive and closest to the pin contests.
Register in advance by calling Ashley DeWitt, 410-903-4043, or Mandi Tabor, 443-763-2669, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tee sign sponsorships are also available.