Celebrating 10 Years of the Fredericksburg Classic
10 years ago, two little girls had a dream to raise $1 million for ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation. 10 years of hard work and dedication later, they are a 1/3 of their way towards that goal!
“Mackenzie has never known life without cancer,” explains Victoria Levi, co-founder of the Fredericksburg ASK Golf Tournament. When Mackenzie was 21 months old, she was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a brain tumor at the base of her brain. She underwent 2 surgeries and 7 months of chemo down at VCU before being declared ‘cancer free’. But that didn’t stop the visits to the clinic and the follow up testing. Every few months, she would have to have blood work and MRIs to look for tumor recurrence, so it seemed like she spent a lot of time down at the hospital. But instead of being afraid of it, Mackenzie made it a playground and everyone there was her friend. So much so that the Levi family started attending ASK social events to connect with clinic staff and other cancer families they had befriended at the hospital.
“ASK is the invisible, behind-the-scenes force of nature that families don’t know they need at the time of treatment,” says Victoria.
“We mistakenly believed that all of the toys and games and gas and meal cards, and even staff like Katie Barber, were provided by the hospital, but all of that support was provided by ASK. They were a Godsend to us, and we knew we needed to do what we could to give back.” The Levi started by attending the ASK Walk and set up a team and a webpage to raise money for ASK. As the years passed, Mackenzie began to understand what was going on and wanted to do her part to raise money for the “boys and girls at the big hospital.”
In first grade, Mackenzie and her best friend Megan decided to sell painted rocks and lemonade to earn ‘1 million dollars’ for ASK and her parents knew they needed to do something else to support them in their effort. With Megan’s dad, Ralph Rapillo, and his friend Mac Church, Jon and Victoria organized the 1st Golf Tournament to raise funds that would stay in the community.
Ten years later, it’s become a full family affair with Mackenzie’s little sister Grace joining in and volunteering at the tournament along with Victoria and Jon’s friends. “It definitely takes a village to pull this off year after year”, Victoria said. “We have great friends that volunteer every year to run the registration and the logistics of the day and put together goodie bags. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without them."
Victoria credits the success and growth of the tournament to those community partnerships. “Mac Church knows everyone in Fredericksburg, and they all come out to help and support the tournament by playing, sponsoring or donating. Without their support we wouldn’t be able continue to meet and even exceed our goals. Every year, our players and sponsors return and the tournament gets bigger and better. And here we are on year 10! We never dreamed it would be this successful or go on this long."
“We were helped so much by the community and our friends and by ASK during and after Mackenzie’s treatment," reflects Victoria.
Covid threatened to cancel the 2020 tournament, but faithful followers remained loyal and were open to any changes that needed to happen to make it a safe event. “Things like the dinner and raffles didn’t matter to them”, Victoria says. “They just wanted to play and raise money for the kids, so we adapted to the situation, and made some changes that allowed us to social distance”. Instead of raffle gift baskets, the tournament gave out gift cards, and provided pre-packaged snacks instead of dinner. “Everyone embraced the changes because we knew we were continuing the tradition of raising money for children with cancer in our community.”
Mackenzie Levi is a senior this year, and continues to motivate and inspire participants in the tournament. Victoria says it’s a full-circle moment. “We were helped so much by the community and our friends and by ASK during and after Mackenzie’s treatment. Watching your child undergo cancer treatment is heartbreaking and it changes you. So every time Mackenzie’s story can inspire someone to take action, to get involved, or to give to ASK, well then that means that maybe her hard days have helped someone else have a better day.”