Heath Kufahl always told his kids at Christian Heritage Academy that if he ever got to shoot the half-court shot at the Thunder game, he would not leave it short.
“I will at least get it to the rim,” he told them. “You have to give it a chance to go in.”
And what happened afterward last March still leaves the basketball coach and economics teacher a little misty-eyed. When people heard that his wife, Jenni, was going through treatment for stomach cancer and that the prize money from the Mid-First Bank Shot Contest would go to pay some of their medical bills, their story was picked up by everyone from Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated to CNN and Fox News.
It was an answer to a prayer.
As Jenni went through chemo for a rare form of the disease — stomach cancer affects only about a thousand Americans a year — she felt called to share her story. How she was coping. How she was staying strong.
“And she thought that was going to be kind of on a small scale at a school event that we have,” Heath said.
Instead, Jenni and Heath got to tell an audience of who knows how many millions on major cable networks and mainstream websites. The reach went all across the country and around the world, as evidenced by the donations they received from Alaska and Hong Kong.
The Kufahls were humbled and amazed.
It also provided some much-needed distraction as Jenni finished up her chemo last spring.
Unfortunately, exploratory surgery in July at MD Anderson in Houston revealed that some cancer remained. Doctors were unsure if the previous treatment hadn't gotten all of it or if the cancer had returned.
Jenni started another round of chemo in September, and earlier this week, the Kufahls returned to MD Anderson and learned that Jenni will need a challenging surgery in January.
The Kufahls don't know what will follow, but sometimes when times are tough, Heath and Jenni will go to YouTube just to watch that half-court shot again. It reminds them of the good that came after.
“It's a memory,” Heath said, “that we'll always have.”