On Dec. 10, 1976, at age 29, celebrated Major League shortstop Danny Thompson succumbed to leukemia after more than three and a half years battling the disease, even continuing to play for four seasons after his initial diagnosis.
His premature death rocked the baseball world, where he was fondly remembered by teammates and opponents alike. One of Thompson’s former Minnesota Twins teammates, in particular, decided to take action to commemorate his fallen friend. After moving to Boise, slugger Harmon Killebrew founded the Danny Thompson Memorial alongside former Idaho congressman Ralph Harding.
By summer 1977, less than a year after Thompson’s death, the pair launched the inaugural Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament Leukemia Research Benefit in Sun Valley. The charity event saw the likes of President Gerald Ford and Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio on the guest list.
Now renamed the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial following Killebrew’s death from esophageal cancer in 2011, the tournament remains a fixture of Sun Valley’s summer calendar more than four decades later.
Registration for the 2019 golf tournament commences today, Aug. 14, at the Sun Valley Inn, and continues through 4 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15. During this time, registrants can enjoy golf practice and other activities, plus a guided hike, the free Cancer in Focus lecture at 4 p.m. and the welcome barbecue at 6 p.m.
The first tournament round shotgun start begins at 9 a.m. on Friday. The full tournament, along with its innumerable accompanying offerings—including cocktail hours, an auction gala, luncheons, awards and a Hemingway tour—continues through Saturday. The whole four-day proceedings all lead up to the Concert for Cancer Research at River Run Lodge.
The benefit concert is a major component of the Killebrew-Thompson event every year, and this year stars former Journey lead singer Steve Augeri and his eponymous band.
“We are so excited to welcome Steve to Sun Valley, and to hear so many favorite Journey hits return to the stage,” said Hannah Stauts, executive director of the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial. “We encourage our local community and summer concertgoers to join in this special concert event, all for a great cause.”
The concert program will feature all of Journey’s greatest hits. Songs such as “Any Way You Want It,” “Faithfully,” “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Wheel in the Sky” as well as some of Augeri’s solo singles and tunes written during his time with Journey will transform the River Run Lodge into a high-energy rock ’n’ roll venue.
“Journey is known for its positive, upbeat messages. We play the greatest hits, the best of Journey,” Augeri said. “That makes our audiences react best and puts the biggest smiles on their faces.”
That infectious sense of positivity has coursed through the veins of Augeri’s entire career since he first signed on with Journey in 1998, when he was named the band’s fourth overall lead vocalist, but only its second “official” singer, after Steve Perry.
He auditioned for the lead singer role in the late 1990s and officially made his Journey debut on the song “Remember Me” for the motion picture soundtrack to “Armageddon.” The album charted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 and went quadruple platinum in the United States and seven times platinum in Canada, an auspicious start to Augeri’s tenure with the band.
Despite what must have been a tremendous responsibility and a dauntingly large pair of shoes to fill, Augeri rose to the occasion as deftly as his voice rises on many a Journey track.
His agile, soaring voice and unencumbered, seemingly limitless tonal range certainly recall the iconic work of Journey’s original front man Steve Perry, but Augeri is more than an imitator. He has carved out his own place in the rock ’n’ roll landscape, and has truly imprinted his personal stamp on both his own music and Journey’s.
“I’m fortunate enough to have worked in one of America’s—if not the world’s—premier rock bands,” Augeri said. “The music is top notch, and I’m fortunate to have gotten the blessing from the band to keep playing their songs. I was a member for about nine years. I’ve got a great job and I wouldn’t trade it in for anything in the world.”
As for performing at charity concerts, Augeri feels he has lived a blessed life, and any opportunity to give back to those less fortunate should not be passed up.
“This much I do know, and it comes with experience and living a few extra years on the planet—there are certain things that are more important than yourself or than striving to get a bigger house or a faster car,” he said.
“Life has its ups and downs, and the little bit that you can possibly lend a hand along the way, it does make a difference. For us, if someone asks, ‘Can you do this charity show, can you help out?’ It’s a no-brainer. Give us a time and a place, and we’ll be there.”
All proceeds from Steve Augeri’s concert benefit leukemia and cancer research at St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise and the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center in Minneapolis.
The outdoor concert will begin at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the River Run Lodge at the base of Bald Mountain in Ketchum. Tickets range from $30-$100 and are available online at sunvalley.ticketfly.com or via phone at 208-726-1049.
For more information, visit killebrewthompsonmemorial.com.