Jack Eckholm’s life was short, but his generosity toward others has left a long impact on young people who are fighting cancer.
It’s in Jack’s memory that golfers from around the Chicago area gather at Bartlett Hills Golf Course, in Bartlett, for the first annual Golf for JOY event on May 20. All proceeds from this charitable outing support Nik’s Wish, a Rockford-based charity that brings joyful experiences to young adults age 18-24 who are fighting cancer but are too old for Make-a-Wish type programs.
Diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma at 21 years old, Jack connected with Nik’s Wish and received a family outing to San Diego while his cancer was in remission. His mother, Cindy Eckholm, remembers it being a time of much-needed peace and joy for Jack, his girlfriend, his sister and his parents.
“He was in remission at that time, so he was relieved it was all behind him – or so he thought,” she recalls. “He had a nice time relaxing and enjoying our family time after all of the drama of cancer treatment.”
Even when the cancer returned, Jack remained positive in spirit and dedicated to helping others who were battling illness. He became a persistent volunteer with Nik’s Wish, continuing until about a month before his death on July 7, 2019, at the age of 25. He was posthumously awarded the foundation’s first-ever Volunteer of the Year award in October 2019.
“I think Jack really enjoyed helping out,” his mom recalls.
Jack and his sister, Anna, were familiar faces at Bartlett Hills, where they worked summers throughout their high school and college years, and it was a place Jack and his dad enjoyed spending time together when he was ill.
The Golf for JOY event encourages businesses and groups of friends to support this charity and its mission to help young people like Jack. Common wishes include concert or sports tickets, vacations and time visiting with loved ones. Since its founding in 2012, Nik’s Wish has granted more than 240 wishes in nearly 40 states.
The Golf for JOY Event costs $500 per foursome or $125 per individual and involves an 18-hole scramble with golf cart, lunch, finisher prizes and a giveaway for a weeklong stay in Marco Island, Fla. Expect to find some of these activities waiting at certain holes:
Corn Hole: Toss a bean bag into the hole and take a stroke off your team’s score;
Pork Butt Hole: Get a chance to win a pork butt from Smokin’ Coop in Belvidere;
Wine Hole: Whet your whistle and enter to win a bottle of wine;
Frisbee Hole: Jack loved playing frisbee golf, so this hole is played with only a frisbee. Win the hole and take another stroke off your team’s score;
Ace in the Hole: Pick an ace from the deck and take a stroke off your team’s score;
Swimming Hole: Chip into the watering hole and remove another stroke;
Licorice String Hole: Use an arm’s length of licorice to move your team’s putt that much closer to the hole.
All proceeds go to Nik’s Wish, which was established in 2012 in memory of Nikolas Ritschel. He was diagnosed with cancer just before his 18th birthday, and while he found joy through his wish from Make-A-Wish Foundation, he was saddened to hear that young adults over 17 don’t qualify. He asked his mother, Kelly Ritschel Boehle, to help them get their wish, too.
“Going through the struggle of cancer is something you can’t believe you’re doing, but to know there are great people out there granting these wishes, is simply amazing,” says Cindy Eckholm.❚