Curtis Frye has a picture of himself as a 2-year-old, sitting on his grandfather's lap. In the photograph, his grandfather has no legs, losing both from battling diabetes.
Frye's father died at age 58 after also fighting the disease. His brother lost a leg and died at age 58. Frye, 59 and living with diabetes since 35, plus seeing others in his family, including his wife, Wilma, suffer from the disease, decided to begin fighting back.
"I would have done this a long time ago, if I knew that there was such an outcry of support to help make something come true," Frye said on Tuesday, speaking on behalf of his new initiative.
The Frye Foundation is designed to help battle diabetes and mental illness, which has plagued the family of the longtime South Carolina track and field coach. Frye, who carefully monitors his diet and exercises to control diabetes, decided to reach out to others suffering from the same problems and increase education and awareness.
The long-term goal is to help research and find ways to battle and hopefully cure diabetes and mental illness. Funds raised will immediately help support two scholarships at Midlands Technical College and Sandhills Community College, given to students interested in entering the nursing field.
"Every five persons deal with mental illness," Frye said. "We didn't understand that. We found that 25 million American children have diabetes. We found that three percent of all Americans have diabetes. In the state of South Carolina, there's almost 500,000 (people with diabetes)."
Frye had been researching ways to draw more attention to the disease and began the foundation to give it a base. His first major supporting initiative will take place in May - Frye has put together a celebrity golf tournament that promises to be a festive atmosphere for any golfers who would like to play with a celebrity player, most hailing from the sports world and USC in particular.
Already on the list are football coach Steve Spurrier and former coach Lou Holtz, with former USC players Travelle Wharton, Langston Moore, Sheldon Brown, Andre Goodman, John Abraham and Jasper Brinkley. NFL players Chuck Darby and William Gay have also confirmed their presence, as has professional wrestler Jeff Hardy.
The field will be limited to 36 teams - each foursome will have a celebrity alongside - and will be held on May 22-23 at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C., Frye's hometown. Guests will also be able to take part in a supper and reception on May 22, compete for prizes during the tournament and participate in a silent auction, with the prize being a gift from another USC connection, former sports information director Kerry Tharp.
Tharp, who moved on to become head of NASCAR public relations, has contributed two tickets to the Oct. 15 NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with pit passes and the opportunity to drive laps with a NASCAR driver.
The golf tournament is just the first big event to help the foundation get off the ground. Frye will also sponsor a road race this fall and try to put together a blood drive, with screening for diabetes included.
"Everybody's jumping in," he said.
For more information on the golf tournament or to donate money to the cause, check out thefryefoundation.org.
BROOKINS REFLECTS: Frye also took time on Tuesday to credit LaKya Brookins, USC's senior track star who recently won the national championship in the 60-meter dash. Brookins' recent time in the event makes her the fastest woman in the world.
"It really hasn't hit me yet," Brookins said. "Like, 'Oh my God, I really did do that.'" I feel like I've got a lot more to prove."
Brookins turned down an invitation to leave school early for professional track, saying she wanted to finish her degree first and then venture into it. Her immediate goals are to do as well in the outdoor season as she did at the indoors.
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