July 8, 2020
|6/11/2012 1:58:00 PM|
Putting others first
NV man with terminal cancer keeps showing his giving character
|Donnie Ellerbrook and Darrel Kemmerer have known each other since they were students together at Jennings County High School.|
As a senior and big man on campus, Ellerbrook befriended Kemmerer, even though he was just a wet-behind-the-ears freshman - although a rambunctious one whose feisty streak continues to this day.
"We have been good friends ever since," Ellerbrook said Saturday.
The two North Vernon men are fishing buddies, shade tree mechanic buddies, golf buddies, all-around buddies.
After Ellerbrook, 55, was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer last November, Kemmerer was floored when he talked to him about his health.
"Donnie turned the discussion back to me and asked how I was doing with a personal problem I was dealing with," Kemmerer noted. "Those who really know Donnie are probably not surprised by this, but he's facing his own mortality and he's concerned about my trivial situation?
"Here's a person who is going to leave us way too early and there is no anger, no self pity, no why me. For Donnie it's just simply, 'It is what it is and I'll make the best of it.'"
Then the wheels started turning in Kemmerer's head.
"Darrel knew a long time ago he wanted to do something special for Donnie," said Julie Kemmerer, Darrel's wife.
So Kemmerer went to work spearheading a fundraiser in Ellerbrook's honor, and what work did he do.
A golf scramble held Saturday generated nearly $20,000, a remarkable total that will grow as more contributions come in. Donors and a silent auction bolstered the effort that included a hog roast, live music and plenty of fellowship at St. Annes Golf Course.
"I have no doubt we'll meet our goal of $25,000," Kemmerer said.
The money raised is not going to Ellerbrook's medical expenses - by his choice. Instead, a scholarship fund is being established in his name through the Jennings County Community Foundation. The scholarship will be awarded to a JCHS student-athlete in track and field, the only one specifically for that sport.
Ellerbrook was a track star at Jennings County High School whose specialty was the pole vault.
"If I can help funnel money to a scholarship to help kids further their education, what a gift back to the community," Ellerbrook said.
Kemmerer pulled out all the stops to do that.
"Darrel worked his tail off," said Bill Browning, who was on the committee Kemmerer assembled over a month ago that included me. "His ketchup bottle concept was unbelievable."
Kemmerer gave a bottle of ketchup to each of the committee members early last week.
"Keep the ketchup with you at all times," he instructed. "When people ask you why you have it with you, tell them you're playing catch-up with getting donations for the Donnie Ellerbrook Scholarship."
Friends and strangers came from near and far to play in the scramble, eat or just to see and support Donnie on a gorgeous sunny Saturday. So many golfers signed up that the event had to be expanded into a morning round.
"A lot of people have a special relationship with Donnie," said Marilee Barber.
I became friends with Donnie when we lived in the same neighborhood as kids, playing countless games of touch football, basketball and other activities together. Donnie was as genuinely friendly then as he is now.
Marilee was there Saturday as part of Ellerbrook's extended family. She is the widow of Bob Barber, one of Ellerbrook's cousins.
"Donnie was the ring bearer at our wedding," Marilee recalled. "He was only 5 years old."
She showed me some of the clippings in one of the scrapbooks from Ellerbrook's high school athletic career that were on display.
Donnie had played football, too, and was a running back on the 1974 Panther team his senior year.
"That was the only Jennings County football team to ever win the Hoosier Hills Conference," Donnie told me proudly.
Ellerbrook has good days and bad days with his health. Saturday was a good day and he was able to make appearances for both the morning and afternoon rounds at St. Annes.
He was overwhelmed by the response, so grateful to have such a network of family and friends, and very pleased to see a scholarship established.
"There is a scholarship fund being set up in honor of Mark McCammon, too," Ellerbrook was quick to point out.
That is typical of Donnie, Kemmerer said.
"The man has lived the majority of his life putting others first with love, honesty, integrity and courage," Kemmerer noted. "Donnie is not perfect, but he is a great human being. I wish we had more people like him."
Those who want to contribute to the Don Ellerbrook Scholarship Fund may do so by sending donations to the Jennings County Community Foundation, 111 N. State St., North Vernon IN 47265.
Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by:
I am sad to read this about Donnie. Hopefully fellow past JCHS track and football team members will contribute to this great idea. In a few months when coaching my boys youth football teams I will holler to the running backs "hit and spin", which is what Donnie taught me 35 years ago.
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