Tossing Corn, Piedmont Style

May 31, 2017

I don’t mean to brag, but for several years in a row my first Piedmont friend (Kathy Kelleher) and I have been gaining international prominence at an emerging endurance sport. We’ve triumphed over teams whose combined age is far less than half of ours and whose training capacity, due to their lack of day jobs, is probably three times as intense. What I’m saying, and again, I hesitate to appear boastful but I swear it’s completely true, is that Kathy and I dominate unsuspecting teams of frat boys.

The sport in question is called ‘Corn Toss’ and it’s one of the rare athletic pursuits that participants (of legal drinking age, of course) can enjoy while holding a beer. You’re in luck, because Kathy and I are prepared to demonstrate how it’s done this Sunday. Just come out to Piedmont Park around noon with your game face on to take part in the 7th annual Bay Area Corn Toss Challenge. We’re taking on all comers and promise to be kind and welcoming to neophytes.

While the ‘sport’ is whimsical and the event is a ton of fun, its purpose could not be more serious or substantive. The Corn Toss Challenge is organized by the Young Faces of ALS, and tossers raise money for a cutting-edge research organization called ALS TDI. Most Piedmonters have been introduced to ALS TDI through the Reich family: Ted, Wendy, Corey and Clare. Though they traveled the circuit years before we moved to Piedmont, my understanding is that until about 10 years ago, the Reiches were much like every other upstanding Piedmont family. Ted and Wendy were successful, happy, involved Piedmont parents. Corey and Clare each made their merry way through the schools, excelling in the classroom and dominating the tennis and volleyball courts before heading off to prestigious liberal arts colleges and presumably upwardly mobile lives.

Until 2007, when Corey – a bright, charismatic, athletic Middlebury junior/aspiring cosmetic dentist – was diagnosed with ALS. Since then, the entire Reich family has devoted their considerable energies and passion to supporting ALS TDI’s search for a cure for the devastating disease. Among other efforts, they throw an annual gala called Corey’s Crusade that has raised more than $5 million for ALS research, and is also, in true Reich fashion, an extremely fun party.

Beyond serving as an extraordinary spokesperson and fundraiser for Young Faces of ALS, Corey has inspired a generation of Piedmont kids through coaching the varsity men’s and women’s tennis teams for nearly a decade. He’s the coach you dream of for your kids: he sets high standards for everyone, cares deeply about each player, and demonstrates through example that life is about determination, commitment and focus. Corey had an indelible influence on my oldest daughter – I believe that through his guidance and friendship, he shifted the trajectory of her life in a meaningful way. And I know I’m not alone. Corey has nudged a lot of our kids into becoming profoundly better men and women than they would have been without him in their lives.

It’s not too late to register for this year’s Piedmont’s Corn Toss (or, if you can’t come, to sponsor the inevitable winners). Just grab a partner and throw on a pair of flip-flops on your way to the park. You probably won’t be able to beat Kathy and me. But you’ll enjoy fabulous craft beer, hear outstanding live music, and have the thrill of playing on the same field as giants. You’ll also be supporting a group of researchers engaged in a race against time with the highest possible stakes. Which you can’t always do while holding a beer.

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