Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Families do different things to keep a loved one’s memory alive. What began as a simple memorial for a teenager in Olivia has turned into an annual event that the Governor himself doesn’t want to miss.
When Tim Orth was 16-years-old he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Fourteen months later, on Valentine’s Day 1997, he passed away.
“It was heart-breaking. It is the most devastating thing that will ever happen to me. Losing a child, it’s unbelievable,” said Tim’s dad, Don Orth.
However, while his family grieved their loss, Tim’s legacy was just beginning. Bill Neubauer and his wife helped throw a basketball benefit for Tim after he was diagnosed, and they decided to continue after his death, raising money for other children with severe medical conditions.
Some of the top high school players in the area now play in the annual Tim Orth benefit game in Bird Island. They are joined by dunk teams, dancelines and NBA mascots.
“Tim was just so incredibly grateful during that first benefit and 16 years later we still sit the same spot he did as a family. For me it’s just like we are experiencing what he was experiencing,” said Tim’s sister, Molly Orth.
Saturday will mark the 16th annual Tim Orth Memorial Benefit. It’s grown so popular over the years that there will be more than 2,000 people packed into the Bird Island gymnasium. To put that in perspective, there are only about 1,200 people in the entire town of Bird Island.
“Sometimes money doesn’t cure what the problems are, but a lot of times the enthusiasm of the crowd makes an incredible difference,” said Neubauer.
Through the years the foundation has raised over a million dollars for kids with life-threatening diseases. Samantha Doering is one of 17 kids the foundation will help this year. She lost her eye to a childhood disease and the foundation is paying for a prosthesis.
“It’s really cool because I didn’t think anyone would actually do that for me,” said Doering.
It’s all made possible because of the life of an all-American teenager, and because of the sport he loved until the very end.
“He really was a unique person. I think that’s why it made all of this so attractive to everyone,” said Tim’s brother, Mike Orth.
“As a parent, one of the things that is sad is that you think nobody will remember your child. Nobody will have a memory of this incredible person that was a part of our life for so long. The benefit has really kept him alive for a lot of people,” said Tim’s mom, Ann Orth.
There will be two more Tim Orth benefits in the towns of Glencoe and Fairfax in the coming weeks. It costs $8 for adults and $6 for kids to come to the event on Saturday. The opening ceremony begins at 5:45 p.m.
Gov. Mark Dayton was at the first benefit 16 years ago, and he’ll be at Saturday’s as well.
During the benefit, sixth-grader Selena Vasquez will be honored. She died Monday after a battle with leukemia and had received a donation from the Tim Orth Foundation.
The Orth family would like to thank the Neubauer’s, Val Serbus and others who have made this event possible over the years.