Last updated: April 25. 2014 3:28PM - 861 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com

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Over the years, many local people have joined a young girl on her inspirational journey toward helping others. Next month, they will continue on that path, with a golf tournament and after party concert set to raise funds for the cause.

The 3rd annual Hayden’s Journey of Inspiration Golf Tournament will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 10, at Timberlake Golf Club in Clinton and the first-ever HJI Golf Tournament After Party at Coharie Country Club will extend from 7-11 p.m. that night.

The HJI Foundation, established by Hayden Zavareei and her family, is a non-profit whose purpose is to offer free, furnished apartments to families of pediatric cancer patients during their pursuit of potentially life-saving stem cell transplants at Duke University Medical Center. Hayden was one of those patients.

The daughter of Natalie and Hassan Zavareei and granddaughter of Danny and Vicki Britt of Clinton, Hayden had a stem cell transplant at Duke that saved her life when she was just 6 years old. She is now 16 and a Leukemia survivor.

For children being treated for childhood cancers at Georgetown University Hospital who need a transplant at Duke, their families must temporarily move several hundred miles away from the Washington, D.C. area to Durham. Because of the intensive nature of the transplant, the families must live in Durham for many months, which means maintaining two households hundreds of miles apart — sometimes for longer than a full year.

“When our granddaughter Hayden went through her transplant, we had an apartment up in Durham and we didn’t have anybody to help us out. So we were trying to keep the family at home, maintain a dwelling in Maryland and then also had apartment rent,” said Danny Britt. “It gets kind of bad with a lot of expenses.”

And it is why, shortly after her five-year transplant anniversary in December 2010, Hayden invited her friends and family to a celebration to launch Hayden’s Journey of Inspiration, thanking those who assisted her family along the way and sharing her commitment to establish a home in Durham for families who have to travel the same journey to Duke for a stem cell transplant.

“She wanted to do something to pay back in some way the people who helped her,” Britt said. “This was her idea to establish an apartment for families to stay while their child or children were undergoing the same treatment that she did.”

The public has stepped up in helping Hayden along her journey, especially those locally. And the outpouring has only continued.

When Clinton resident Reid Darden heard about Hayden and learned about her foundation, he came up with the idea to hold a golf tournament for his Eagle Scout project to raise funds for the cause. That was two years ago — and the tourney has now become an annual occurrence, and is only getting bigger in its third year.

“When it was held for the first time (in 2012), he was only 14,” Leslie Darden has said of son Reid, who is the same age as Hayden. “He said then and still says now that he wants to continue to do it every year and for people to continue to be touched by it.”

Last year’s tournament had 102 golfers and raised around $17,000 for the HJI Foundation, Darden stated.

“Proceeds from the tournament go directly toward supporting the families who must make the journey to Duke for treatment,” she pointed out.

HJI currently has two renovated and furnished apartment in Durham for use by families who must relocate for treatments at Duke. The first apartment was opened in 2012 and a second opened last year. The estimated yearly cost of maintaining the properties is roughly $25,000 per apartment.

“We’ve had about six or seven kids come through these apartments in the last three years,” said Britt. “There is a great need for this.”

Along with the golf tournament, the fundraising will continue with the HJI Golf Tournament After Party, featuring national recording Blues artist Johnny Rawls. The event is being organized by Robert Stroud, a local DJ with the Boogie Shoes Radio Network.

“Johnny and I are really good friends and he travels everywhere. He could be in London or Japan, he was in the Virgin Islands just last month,” said Stroud. “He was coming through town and I try to put him wherever I can. He’s just a super good guy, a very talent musician and an excellent singer.”

Rawls has normally performed at Oasis Oyster Bar, which has always accommodated Rawls, but Stroud said there has just not been enough seating so he looked at Coharie Country Club.

“I’m hoping that Coharie will be big enough,” said Stroud. “We can seat around 100 in there and still have plenty of room. I’m hoping we’ll have a lot of standing-room only that night.”

Tickets are now on sale.

Stroud said he first considered SamCo Shag Club and its founder John Bradshaw when thinking about a possible beneficiary of the concert, but then shifted his thoughts toward HJI.

“I started thinking about HJI and I came to find out they’ve started a third apartment in the Duke Hospital area. I said ‘Lord, they need help,’” Stroud remarked. “I asked John what he thought about it and asked John what he thought and he was fine with it.”

Stroud announced last month on his Boogie Shoes Radio Network that all proceeds were going to HJI. He didn’t even tell Danny Britt.

“He heard it on the radio,” Stroud noted, “and it touched him. He gave me a call and thanked me for doing that and I told him I just hoped we could raise some money to give. I’m very close friends with Danny and Vicki Britt and I knew Hayden’s mother (Natalie) when she was just a young girl. I know the Dardens really well and Reid came into the radio station (earlier this year) and we talked about the upcoming tournament.”

“We didn’t know anything about it, but he wanted all proceeds from that event at Coharie to go to the HJI Foundation,” Britt said. “That’s absolutely great that Robert has stepped up and wants to do this fundraiser. That’s a first with the after-party. We’ll see where this thing goes.”

Since the HJI Golf Tournament began, Stroud has served as a hole sponsor and promoted the event on his radio show at no cost in order to encourage others to share the same support.

“It’s just a great cause,” he said.

Hayden is doing well and will be on hand that day, both at the golf tournament and at the concert that night.

“Hayden’s great,” said Britt, “She was 6 years old at that time, but now she’s a sophomore in high school. She still has some issues, she has to take light medication — she’s just a small girl, but she’s a powerhouse believe me.”

And the “powerhouse” wants to put in a third apartment to help families. Britt, who is now on crutches due to an injury he recently sustained, said that is a distinct possibility.

“We’re going to just as soon as we can,” the proud granddaddy attested.

Fore more information about Hayden’s Journey of Inspiration Foundation, please visit hjifoundation.org. Families and businesses interested in being sponsors, entering a 4-person team in the tournament or volunteering time or resources are asked to contact Danny and Vicki Britt at 910-627-1587 or Andy and Leslie Darden at 910-214-0094 or lwdarden@embarqmail.com.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at cberendt@civitasmedia.com.

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