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Annual golf tournament, auction raises cancer research money

When Karl Potach was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with a rare tumor called Wilms. After three years of treatments, he lost his battle with cancer, but the impact his life left on family and friends is still a prominent part of the Austin community.

It was 13 years ago when the Pogones family of Austin conceived the idea for a memorial golf tournament for Karl Potach. The annual event, which was held Monday at the Austin Country Club, attracted 300 people at the live and silent auctions.

At the end of the night, $50,000 was offered to the Hormel Institute, and additional checks were written out to the Children's Cancer Research Fund and Mayo Clinic Pediatrics for $10,000 each.

Remembering Karl

"He had so much life packed into five short years," said Barry Larson, of Austin. "This day is about life, and this beautiful day is a gift."


Jacob Larson, 18, and Karl were best friends growing up together. Barry described Jacob as a window to Karl's life to what he may have been like today.

"I can't remember a childhood memory without Karl in it," Jacob said. "No matter where he was, he had joy around him. He would be in cancer therapy and would hop out of bed so we could go talk to the nurses. Nothing would stop him from brightening someone's day."

Butterfly favorite

Just a few weeks after Karl was diagnosed with his third tumor, the Pogoneses took a couple of butterfly cocoons to the hospital so Karl could watch them hatch. Molly Pogones says the story still gives her goosebumps.

"Karl loved nature, so he thought they were really neat and eventually he was able to see them both hatch," Molly said. "This story is really special for us because the day before he died he told his grandma that tomorrow was going to be sunny and he was going to be a butterfly."

To this day, whenever Molly and her family see a butterfly, they think of Karl.

Tournament's impact

Two years ago, Dr. Zigang Dong, the Hormel Institute's executive director, came up with the idea to have specific research done on rare cancers like Wilms. The annual memorial tournament makes this possible.


"We're a small town, but that doesn't mean anything," said Ann Bode, associate director of the Hormel Institute. "Austin is on the map for cutting-edge cancer research."

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