Awards & Events

Cancer Society Golf Tournament to Honor McCullough

WARREN, Ohio – “Hang in there. Have faith and pray. That’s very important,” says Gail McCullough, a cancer survivor and this year’s honoree at the American Cancer Society’s Tri-County Golf Classic.

McCullough, owner/operator of the Boardman Chick-fil-A, was diagnosed in 2008 with chronic myeloid leukemia, known as CML. He will be recognized Aug. 28 as business leaders from across the Mahoning Valley raise funds for the American Cancer Society at Avalon Lakes Golf Course.

This is the 19th year of the Tri-County Golf Classic.

Through the years, it has raised more than $1.8 million for American Cancer Society efforts in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. The proceeds support services and programs to cancer patients and their families as well as research and early detection and prevention programs. Last year the tournament raised nearly $100,000.

McCullough will play in the tournament, he says, but advises against taking pictures of him on the links, “because it wouldn’t be pretty,” he jokes of his swing.

He’s recruited friends to sponsor tables and prizes for holes. “It’s a great time to get together and network in business,” he says. “That’s one reason for the golf tournament: to get everyone together to share ideas and stories and have some fun too.”

McCullough opened the region’s first Chick-fil-A franchise in 1980 and since has employed “thousands” to work at his restaurant and awarded more than 50 college scholarships to employees.

He found out he had CML when he tried to give blood to the American Red Cross. At the time, his doctor gave him only two years to live, he says.

McCullough went to the Cleveland Clinic for additional tests and hoping for a stem cell match for a transplant. When one wasn’t found, he was sent to University Hospitals in Cleveland, where a match was found. His first stem cell transplant didn’t work. A year later he tried again and this time it worked, which is rare, he says.

“Cancer is something not to be afraid of because you can beat it. It used to be something that you wouldn’t even say the word ‘cancer.’ But it’s something you have to face up to and fight,” McCullough says. “It’s taught me about life, that every day is precious with your family, your spouse, your children and your grandchildren. It’s all very important.”

He thanks the American Cancer Society for all the support given him and others who have cancer or a relative going through it.

The honorary chairwoman of the tournament is Kathy Cook, president of St. Joseph Warren Hospital. She has been with Mercy Health since 1983, holding leadership positions at all three Mercy Health-Youngstown hospitals.

Mercy Health and Home Savings Bank are co-sponsors of the Tri-County Golf Classic.

“The American Cancer Society is very important to me personally as well as to Mercy. I go back many years with the American Cancer Society,” she says, “but we work hand in hand every day with the society in our oncology program at Mercy.”

Programs within the oncology centers at St. Joseph’s and St. Elizabeth’s Boardman work with the society to help patients who seek care by providing them transportation to their care centers, she says, citing one example.

Care for cancer has advanced over the years, Cook says, with the testing, additional resources and radiation oncology at Mercy Health.

“We brought excellent physicians to the community so you don’t need to leave the Valley now. It’s all right here,” she says.

The Tri-County Golf Classic begins 10 a.m. Aug. 28. Sponsorships are available and the tournament is open to all golfers.

Pictured: Gail McCullough, honoree at the American Cancer Society’s Tri-County Golf Classic and Jamie Heinl, development manager for the American Cancer Society.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.