Brothers Support Roger Maris in Dad’s Memory

For brothers Mark and Chuck Johnson, the owners of Fargo’s indoor golf facility, Suite Shots, Roger Maris All-Star Week is more than a week a great golf for a good cause. It’s a week that brings them closer to the memory of their dad, Don Johnson, the man who inspired their love for the game as well as their personal support for Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center.

In 2019, the Johnson family lost Don to leukemia after a brief battle at Roger Maris. It was a difficult time, but also one that left them with many happy memories and enduring gratitude for the team at Roger Maris.

“From the beginning, the staff was tremendous,” Chuck remembers. “Night and day, they were a resource and did everything they could to keep dad comfortable.”

Don had lived his passion coaching boys and girls golf at Shanley High School for more than 30 years. He led the Deacons to win more than eight state championship titles and was named Coach of the Year six times by players who lovingly referred to him as “Grandpa.”

It came as no surprise then, that after Don was diagnosed and admitted to Roger Maris for six weeks of inpatient treatment, the former coach’s first priority was to roll out a putting green in his hospital room.

“He wanted his putter, golf balls and putting green in his world, and he continued ‘coaching,’” Mark laughs. “He had little bags of cookies that he’d give to any of the nurses or staff who made the putt. People gravitated toward his room, and to him.”

Don faced cancer with dignity and grace, but eventually, his doctors told the family that they’d exhausted all treatment options.

“It was a kick in the gut,” Chuck says. “He fought so hard and that was tough news. But he thanked the staff and said they gave it their all with him.”

Don was discharged into home hospice care, but not before heading to the local golf course for one last round. He then went on to spend the next 15 days surrounded by family and friends before passing away peacefully at age 77.

In honor of Don and the care he received at Roger Maris, Mark and Chuck are proud to help kick off 2023’s Roger Maris All-Star Week by hosting the inaugural Swing Training virtual golf tournament and fundraiser at Suite Shots.

“It’s an honor and privilege to help out where we can,” Mark says.

In the putting area at Suite Shots, visitors can see a picture of Don signed with love by his Roger Maris nurses, who presented it to the family shortly after their loss. It hangs in a shadow box along with Don’s putter.

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Year after year, an increasing number of men, women and children across North Dakota, western Minnesota and beyond turn to Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo for hope, healing and comfort. Since Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center opened in 1990, its lifesaving mission has not changed, but cancer treatment and the needs of our patients have. Over the past decade, cancer cases at Roger Maris have increased by 34%, to more than 2,000 patients—including 60 to 70 children—every year.

Together, we can help enhance the programs and services patients count on today while expanding treatment options, like bone marrow transplant, fueling research and building the workforce of the future reimagine a new era of care at Roger Maris Cancer Center for generations to come.

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