Mark Pendergraf of Fort Worth, Texas, won the inaugural B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series Championship powered by TourneyX on Possum Kingdom Lake, but second-place finisher, Joe McElroy merits recognition for a selfless act that demonstrated the kind of spontaneous goodness that proved to be as inspiring as it was impactful.
Upon receiving his $5,000 prize, the angler from Cullman, Ala., resolutely stepped forward and announced he was donating his winnings to someone who’s not even old enough to soak a worm.
“Sometimes, it’s about timing,” McElroy said. “I was in the right place and had the opportunity, so it just came together.”
Here’s the back story: During the top 10 award ceremony at Dickies Arena prior to the Classic’s Day 1 weigh-in, seventh-place finisher Jason Borofka shared that his 2-year-old son J.T. suffers from Triosephosphate Isomerase Deficiency. An ultra-rare disorder, TPI causes a shortage of red blood cells (anemia), movement problems, increased susceptibility to infection and muscle weakness that can affect breathing and heart function.
According to the website that Borofka and wife Tara run, www.savejt.com, fewer than 70 of TPI Deficiency cases have ever been reported, so information is slim. The site states that J.T. is the first person in his birth state of California to be diagnosed with this disease. Currently, he’s one of five people worldwide known to have TPI.
A seasoned angler — formerly from Salinas, Calif., now living in Lavon, Texas — Borofka uses his tournament platform to raise awareness for this disease and to generate support for his son’s ongoing medical needs. Noting the ongoing medical needs, he directed anyone interested in helping to the family’s informative/fundraising website.
McElroy was so moved by what he heard that he didn’t hesitate to follow his heart.
“The prize money was a gift and a blessing to me from God, and I wanted to pass it on,” McElroy said. “I had not met Jason until we had the top 10 meeting; I heard his appeal for help just moments before, when he accepted his seventh-place award.
“Jason was overwhelmed and thankful. He was very appreciative.”
Borofka recalls the breathtaking moment: “I was on the sidelines standing there with my family when he said that, and I was like ‘what?!’ I was totally blown away.”
But the story doesn’t end there. Barely three months into their move to the Lone Star State, the Borofka’s are finding Texans a welcoming and supportive community. Since that emotional moment at a kayak tournament weigh-in, offers of promotional support and vital financial contributions have flooded the Borofka’s — due, in large part, to McElroy’s initiative.
“It was awesome because he really inspired a lot of people,” Borofka said. “A lot of people from the Dallas-Fort Worth area have contacted us wanting to help. My phone has been blowing up.
“Donations just since (the Kayak Championship) — not including Joe’s $5,000 — have been somewhere between $8,000 and $9,000. It’s growing fast. What he did, with B.A.S.S., the Classic and the whole set up — it was just meant to be. Honestly, it’s been a blessing.”
Bass anglers come in all shapes, sizes, accents and inclinations, but across the board, kindness and generosity are seldom hard to find. McElroy’s a shining example.