Pictured: Pro golfer Jerry Kelly (left) and Make-A-Wish recipient Noah Weidner at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wisconsin. 

When he was finally healthy enough after his battle with cancer, the first exercise Noah Weidner wanted to do was golf.

A diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia had interrupted the 18-year-old's high school golf career during his junior year. Weidner made his recovery after undergoing two rounds of chemotherapy and receiving a bone marrow transfer from his sister.

“I was able to golf a couple months after I got out of the hospital,” Weidner said. “And that was kind of the first chance I got to exercise once I came out of the hospital.”

Weidner continued his journey back to the sport he loves with an appearance in the pro-am event at June’s American Family Insurance Championship in Madison, Wisconsin. The opportunity came to him through a collaboration of Madison-based Exact Sciences and Make-A-Wish.

Weidner got to tee off with pro golfer and two-time tournament winner Jerry Kelly, who gave Weidner some personal coaching between holes.

“It’s cool that other people, even if they don’t know exactly what you are going through, they know you are going through a tough time and they’re willing to help,” Weidner says.

Kelly serves as a brand ambassador for Exact Sciences’ Cologuard® test, helping raise awareness for colorectal cancer screening. Kelly’s wife had a kidney removed due to a cancerous tumor in 2021, so opportunities to show up for cancer survivors like Weidner mean a lot to him.

“Just to get him out here and let him know there’s life to be had,” Kelly says. “And I know he’s on the recovery side of things and is going to be around for a long time, it’s just remembering that he’s always going to have to keep on fighting.”

‘We’re all better for it’

This is the second year Exact Sciences has joined with Make-A-Wish Foundation to make a young golfer’s dream come true by helping them participate in the pro-am. The foundation creates life-changing opportunities for children with critical illnesses. Many of those kids have rare, often inherited diseases that align closely with the hereditary ones screened for by PreventionGenetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Exact Sciences.

PreventionGenetics provides testing for almost all clinically relevant genes, with products including a whole-genome sequencing test and whole-exome sequencing test. The company believes that understanding a person’s genetic profile is the best form of early detection for patients.

Bobby Adamov, head of PreventionGenetics’ commercial operations, joined Kelly, Weidner, and Weidner’s father, along with former NFL and UW-Madison football player Ryan Groy, to round out the pro-am foursome. Adamov noted that the collaboration created meaningful connections to benefit the community.

“When you get the opportunity to bring American Family together with Make-A-Wish and Exact Sciences to do great things for the community, we’re all better for it,” Adamov says. “So, it’s our obligation as an organization to partner with other organizations that do that, and American Family and a golf outing provides a great opportunity.”

The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation puts on the AmFam Championship as a fundraising event. It has raised more than $17 million for the American Family Children’s Hospital, along with charities, educational initiatives, and organizations aimed at building strong families and healthy kids.

The three-day PGA TOUR Champions event ended in a close finish. Ernie Els beat tournament host Stricker in a sudden-death playoff.

With the tournament and the pro-am in the books, Weidner looks forward to future adventures including college. In the fall, he will attend Wisconsin Lutheran College in Wauwatosa. His new wish: to play on the college’s golf team.

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