Help on cue: Annual pool tournament benefits cancer patients

Shannon Moralez loved to play pool.

When he was battling the cancer that eventually took his life, a pool tournament fundraiser to help cover many of his medical bills was particularly close to his heart, family members say.

Moralez lost his battle in September 2009, and each year since then his friends, family and fellow pool enthusiasts have held a memorial tournament in his honor — just as Moralez wished before he died.

“It’s just been unreal,” said Theresa Garcia, Moralez’ aunt and organizer of the now-annual tournament. “Every year it just grows, and it’s just awesome how people come together, have a good time and raise money to help other families.”

This past September, the fourth-annual tournament was held in Delta at the Throttle and Spur Saloon, and more money was raised by the 64 participants this year than ever before. And just as Moralez wanted, the money is going directly to local families with members battling cancer and other serious illnesses right now.

To date, the tournaments since 2010 have raised more than $5,300, helping 10 families from the area.

Recipients of the money this year include families from Delta, Montrose, Mesa and Moffat counties.

Montrose County resident Ben Gibson is one of this year’s recipients. The 13-year-old is battling a malignant germinoma brain tumor, Garcia said. She explained how Ben has had 42 chemotherapy treatments in the past nine weeks, and will continue his treatments in Denver.

Ben, being a huge Broncos fan, got a jersey along with some of the tournament proceeds, and even received a phone call from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning himself a few weeks ago, Garcia said.

Delta County resident Joe Keating is battling mouth cancer and recently had heart surgery.

Money raised at this year’s pool tournament went to him as well, which was particularly special since he was a former member of the American Pool Players’ Association.

Moffat County resident Laura Gonzales is fighting colon and ovarian cancer; she and her husband, Dwayne, have five children. They were recipients of pool tournament money this year as well.

The fourth person to receive financial support from the tournament this year is Mesa County resident Brandy Gonzales, who is battling leukemia and recently underwent a bone marrow transplant in Denver. For the past three years, Garcia said, Gonzales has been in and out of the hospital and not able to work to support her three children.

In addition to the families who received proceeds from this year’s tournament, more than $300 was raised for the Rocky Mountain Cancer Assistance Foundation, a group that was there for Shannon Moralez during his fight.

For tournament champion Mike Mullin of Montrose, this year’s win was bittersweet. Mullin lost his own father to cancer just weeks before this year’s event.

To be a part of next year’s event, or to make a donation to next year’s tournament, call Theresa Garcia at 970-361-8691.


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