Toga and Tourney Fundraiser For Childhood Cancer Foundation

Tourney, Raise Funds to Battle Cancer

Tourney, toga raise funds to battle cancer

Tourney, toga raise funds to battle cancer

Toga! Toga! Toga!

I hadn’t heard those words since the last time I watched “Animal House,” but I had as much fun at James Ragan’s 15th Birthday Party on June 1 as the boys at Delta House ever did.

Upon arrival, Patricia Ayala and Monica Chapa adorned guests with a crown of leaves, orange Triumph wristbands styled after Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong bands, and Triumph cuff links. I entered the party as Paul Gregory announced, “Hail Caesar.”

The party was held in a backyard tent at the Ragans’ Ocean Drive home, although I felt like I was on a tropical vacation, wandering through the gazebo, swimming pool and tennis court. The party was a mixed-age crowd and most everyone was wearing a toga.

Our host, James’ dad, Jim Ragan, joked he wasn’t wearing anything underneath, whereas James made sure we knew he was.

Mel Klein, who is on the M.D. Anderson Board of Regents and chairs the research advisory committee, told me he received a special invitation from James and was so honored to be invited, he came home early from Europe so he and his wife, Annette, could attend.

This birthday party was special because James was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 13, and now every birthday is a celebration. Unlike any teenager I know, James also included a request on his invitations that in lieu of gifts, a donation to cancer research be made.

He hosted a fundraising golf tournament the day before, with proceeds going to benefit cancer research. At the golf tournament, several items were auctioned, including a golf cart and custom-made graphite Titleist golf club. Ladies, this to the guys is like a Chanel purse to us (i.e. very special), which made it even harder for James to donate to the auction and even sweeter when high bidder J. Scott Smith gave the club to James as a birthday present.

Kate Bowman volunteered to sit on the 8th hole to see if anyone made the elusive hole in one. She reported no one did, but the day wasn’t a total loss, as she got a chance to work on her tan, which she showed off at the backyard bash.

About that time, Tulane University student Cecilia Schechter and her brother Oscar arrived. James bear-hugged Oscar and introduced him as his BFF. Talk of graduations and future plans arose and someone asked James what he wanted to be “when you grow up.”

Without hesitation he replied, “an orthopedic oncology surgeon like my role model, Dr. Valerie Lewis.” Dr. Lewis is also a fan of James and made this occasion her first trip to Corpus Christi.

Guests chatted during dinner, and David Burkett teased his wife, Marsha, about her golf game. She refers to it as “social golf,” because she mainly likes to visit, and he refers to it as “calculator golf,” because a calculator is necessary to tabulate her score.

Scott and Carrie Hydecamp discussed graduation night curfew while Doug Allison and Barbara Canales entertained dining companions by singing “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere.” Let’s just say Alan Jackson’s career is safe.

Chris Bergues coaxed Josephina Villarreal onto the dance floor, followed shortly thereafter by husband Horacio Villarreal Jr. I also spotted teenagers dancing, cell phones in hand as they texted away.

The birthday boy took the stage and thanked special guests Dr. Lewis, nurse Peggy Pearson and nurse Anna K. Smith. Not one to enjoy hospital food, James thanked his special friend Charles Brooks for bringing him real food.

The crowd cheered when James told us so far the golf tournament and his birthday gifts totaled more than $80,000. As of print time, the updated total is more than $100,000.

Palm trees, warm breeze, good cause good times.