Fallen Soldiers, Racquetball, and Caring
By Joanie Hofmeister
Simply put, A+ Career Apparel Cares. As the company’s Customer Success Manager, I see the many opportunities and efforts put in to promoting health, happiness and love for our global community. The Knoss family, Ken, Bernie, Ryan, and Vince, take active roles in directly and indirectly contributing to many worthwhile causes including No Kid Hungry, various cancer, heart, special needs and veteran organizations, environmental and wildlife agencies, and SPCA. Just to name a few. Not only are the founders and leaders of this great business outstanding role-models, they encourage and support any employee who volunteers and donates time and money as they do. It runs top to bottom at A+.
This month I had the distinct pleasure of offering my volunteer services at the The Spc. John A. Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions, a tribute tourney to John Pelham, a local fallen hero, a devout racquetball player, and a lover of humanity. In February of 2014, at the age of 22, John was killed in the line of duty from wounds received from small-arms fire while serving in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, as part the US Army’s 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Born and raised in Portland, OR, John grew up in a large and loving athletic family. He was a formidable athlete who, when first discovered the game of racquetball, loved the mental dexterity and physical challenge the game demanded. He played at any chance, with anyone willing, and grew to use the sport as a way to reach and help the disenfranchised. Just 5 days before his death, John posted on Facebook, “I can’t wait to play racquetball again.” That was his final post.
The racquetball community in Portland, OR is strong and thriving. To honor his legacy, John’s dad Wendall, also an avid racquetball player, started this tournament and an organization called Live Like John with the intent to help Gold Star families working through loss, confusion and heartache, as well as active duty and retired veterans struggling through their lives. The Live Like John non-profit is dedicated to support the organizations that made an impact in John’s life. With some of the highest US Racquetball tournament participation numbers from 12 states and 6 countries, including the top 35 players in the world, this tournament brings together a community of athletes who care. I am one of those athletes. We raise money through entry fees, sponsorships and other donations. Most importantly, this tournament raises awareness….the awareness that our children, grandchildren, parents and friends sacrifice their lives, that there can be heartache and loss, that current and retired active military personnel face certain challenges, and that through events like this we can support one another and hopefully take the path that John would take in helping others and paving the way for the best humanitarian efforts one can offer.
Thank you, TOC, for allowing me to help run this tournament. It is my honor to support, meet great ball players, talk to veteran families, and be part of an institution that cares about health and people.
All proceeds from the Tournament are split between four charities: