May 6, 2015
Lawrence, KS - Superintendent Dean Kerns has made plenty of
friends since starting at Arrowhead Golf Club in Minster, Ohio, in
1981, and they recently showed how much they care for their friend,
who is fighting ALS.
Nearly 200 people showed up on a recent Sunday at Arrowhead GC to deliver a surprise gift, a single-rider golf car that will help him in his work and to play golf. The SoloRider will allow Kerns, who received the Miami Valley Golf Association's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, to stay on the job.
"It's great," said the 59-year-old Kerns, a certified golf course superintendent (CGCS) who uses a cane to help him get around.
"I just have to learn how to drive it," he told Howard Richman, who first wrote the story, "Special delivery," for the May issue of GCM magazine. "I can't do digging, shoveling or prune trees at work anymore. But, I can mow fairways. I just have trouble getting on and off the equipment."
The SoloRider was the idea of Minster High School golf coach Debbie Ahrns, who wrote to fellow Ohioan Mark Jordan, CGCS, a board member for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), to ask what her team could do to help Kerns.
Eventually, they settled on a SoloRider, and the Wee One Foundation, which assists golf course management professionals or their dependents who incur overwhelming expenses due to medical hardship without comprehensive insurance or adequate financial resources, covered the nearly $10,000 tab.
"We're a small community. A lot of people have known Dean their whole lives," said Ahrns, who marvels at Kerns' optimism. "His spirits are as high as the rough he keeps."
Kerns had noticed more than two years ago something was wrong. He was walking in a grocery store and could tell there was a different slap in his gait; one step sounded different than the next. He also recalls catching his toe on things, nearly tripping. It prompted a doctor visit.
"The neurologist told me it was Lou Gehrig's disease," Kerns said.
The disease is formally known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. More than half of all patients live more than three years after diagnosis.
"Dean seems to have pretty good spirits. We all seem to be pretty tough," his brother Jack said. "He has a will to live."
The single-rider cart could help him play golf longer than he anticipated too. Kerns, a 34-year member of GCSAA, was a once a pretty good golfer. He won the Piqua city championship years ago and dedicated it to his father the year before he died. Now, Dean is fighting for his life.
"I pray for a cure. It is what I do every night," said Kerns.