Golf tourney proceeds to benefit suicide prevention in southeast Utah

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PRICE — Mike Ballard had a smile that was irrepressible.

"That's what everybody says to me when they remember Mike. 'We just miss that smile," Linda Ballard said Thursday.

In the hours after he slipped on a patch of ice and hit his head in January 2010, Ballard appeared to be OK.

"I looked at the injury. It was just a little bump, a scratch on his head," Ballard recalled. "But by the following day, you know, he was showing symptoms that something was wrong. (I) took him to the hospital and they found a bleed."

Mike Ballard, who became a grandfather one month after the accident, remained hospitalized for months while he underwent multiple brain surgeries. He died from complications of pneumonia in November 2010 at the age of 49.

"That was such a terrible time in my life," Linda Ballard said.

During those devastating days and months, the Ballards' friends came together to support the family. When Linda Ballard's coworkers at the Carbon County offices began organizing a golf tournament, they decided to use the event as a way to raise money to offset the family's mounting medical bills.

"We never thought it would turn out to be what it was," said Rose Barnes, director of human resources for Carbon County and a member of the committee that runs what has become the Mike Ballard Memorial Golf Tournament.

"I think that first year we actually gave Linda a check for $22,000," Barnes said.

Each year since, the committee has chosen a new recipient for the money raised in Mike Ballard's memory. This year, it will go to the Southeastern Utah District Health Department's Hope Squad, a group working to raise awareness about suicide prevention.

We want to help as many people as we can. We want to help people be more aware of what's going on in our community.

–Diane Lodeserto

"We rank fifth in the nation for youth suicides and seventh in the nation for adult suicides," health department program specialist Diane Lodeserto said.

In 2013, the four counties the health department serves — Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan — recorded 22 suicides in a population of roughly 50,000 people, Lodeserto said. The newly formed Hope Squad operates solely on donations, like the one they'll receive after Saturday's golf tournament.

"Being awarded this funding, it has just lifted a huge weight off our shoulders," Lodeserto said. "We want to help as many people as we can. We want to help people be more aware of what's going on in our community."

In addition to the golf tournament, organizers have added a catered dinner and a concert to attract non-golfers to the event.

"The players who play in the tournament get to go to the concert. That's part of their entry fee," Carbon County Club head golf pro Tom King said. "Their friends, who may not play golf, can enjoy this great facility, this fun event and help out the cause."

As of Thursday there was still room for one more team in the tournament. Tickets for the dinner and the concert are available in advance at the country club or at the door.

Linda Ballard said her late husband shunned the spotlight, but would be proud of the event that now bears his name.

"Anybody would have to be proud of what's going on here, this group of people and how they are helping the community," she said.


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Geoff Liesik


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