North East, Md. — Touring pros, regional tournament competitors and bass club anglers gathered at Chesapeake Bay, Aug. 16, to help a young man struggling to regain his health.Ronnie Phillips, 13, suffered a liver laceration during a backyard football game. While recovering from the injury, the Tri-County Junior Bassmasters member was also diagnosed with Burkitt's Leukemia, a rare, fast-growing type of blood cancer.
Ronnie has been through so much," said Dave Anderson, president of the Tri-County Bassmasters and Tri-County Junior Bassmasters clubs. "It is unbelievable the strength this kid has."
Phillips' supporters, Anderson included, then created the Ronnie Phillips Benefit Tournament. Members of Phillips' junior club — including Brian March, Joe Todd, Ben Martin, Wesley Mathias, Chris Urban and Tyler Collins — fished in the tournament and helped with the weigh-in. Phillips' grandfather, Barry Townsend, joined his fellow members of the Tri-County Bassmasters adult club to fish in the tournament as well.
Among the 86 teams competing in the Ronnie Phillips Benefit Tournament were Bassmaster Elite Series pros Rick Ash (who helped promote the event) and Jeff Connella, along with Women's Bassmaster Tour competitors Bridget Allen and Christiana Bradley, and veteran pros Randy Yarnall and David Mansue.
All these anglers pulled together as one big bass fishing family and rallied for the cause," said Anderson. "It was an awesome thing to see."The father-and-daughter team of Joe and Brittany Thompson won the event with five fish weighing 16.05 pounds and had the big fish of the tournament with 3.89 pounds. They donated their winnings of $1,525 to Phillips. Since May, the fundraising group has collected $38,000 to help Phillips battle his ailments. Ash has also collected jerseys and other souvenirs from fellow Elite Series pros to list on eBay for a benefit auction.
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