When Mentor firefighter Matt Henk died from colon cancer in 2009, his friends and co-workers at the Mentor Fire Department held a softball tournament to raise money and help support his wife and twin daughters.
Last year, Henk's softball tournament drew 48 teams from as far away as Detroit, Indianapolis and Baltimore. This year's tournament will be from July 22 to 24 at the Mentor High School baseball fields, and it promises to be just as big.
In just three years, the tournament has become so successful that the Matt Henk Foundation also helps causes that mattered to its namesake.
Those causes include Ireland Cancer Center, Mentor Youth Hockey – Henk loved to play hockey and his jersey is retired at – and the family of Cleveland firefighter Tom Hough, who also died because of cancer in 2010.
"We still help the (Henk) family," Mentor firefighter Jeremy Szydlowski said, "but we also support the causes that were important to Matt and his family. (For example), Ireland Cancer Center, the care he received there extended his life by several years."
Eighteen teams have already signed up for this year's tournament even though it does not start for another two months. Baseball star Jose Canseco has also pledged to make a special appearance and might even pinch-hit for a couple of teams, Szydlowski said.
Teams can sign up by calling Bill Maloverh at 440-478-8372 before July 15. It costs $175 to register a team.
Those who don't play softball can still come and watch. Attendance at the tournament is free, and there will be opportunities to donate to the Henk Foundation during the day.
Henk was a Mentor firefighter for the last nine of his 30 years. His friends described him as helpful and humble. He spent about a year reorganizing the Mentor Fire Department's archives and didn't even mention it to his parents.
"Matt was about as a good a friend as you could get," Szydlowski said. "He would take care of you."
Those who wish to donate directly also can write checks to the Matt Henk Foundation c/o International Association of Firefighters Local 1845, 7262 Jackson St., Mentor, OH, 44060.