AL HAMNIK: Jack Callahan still throwing punches for a good cause

2014-02-25T17:30:00Z 2014-04-01T22:45:09Z AL HAMNIK: Jack Callahan still throwing punches for a good causeAl Hamnik Times Columnist
February 25, 2014 5:30 pm  • 

Got a pencil? Write this down. April 5. Hammond Civic Center. 911 Slugfest. Bring the family. A great cause.

Now read that back to me.

I wrote about Jack and Karen Callahan's labor of love on Jan. 18. The event pits local firefighters against police, in the ring, for three one-minute rounds.

The list of participants continues to grow, ranging in age from 25 to 60.

They must be amateur boxers, though several will be lacing up the gloves for the first time.  They do this for a worthy cause, with proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The Callahans are hoping for a crowd of 4,000.

If you have children, you know about all the inspiring work Make-A-Wish has done for years.

Jack and Karen certainly do.

A Hammond fireman for 25 years and a former pro boxer, Jack lost two children from a previous marriage. Patrick, only 7, was killed in a car accident. Shannon, 25, died from an aneurism.

Two region families who have gone through the Make-A-Wish experience hope to attend the 911 Slugfest. There will be hugs, handshakes and lots of tears. It can't be avoided in such emotionally-draining times.

Randy and Jennifer Jongsma of Crown Point have a 5-year-old daughter, Amy, who was diagnosed with the rare cancer Wilms' Tumor that affects children's kidneys.

Thomas and Debra Hilliker of Hobart have an 8-year-old son, Jacob, who has Muscular Dystrophy.

Make-A-Wish has been a godsend to these families.

The Hillikers received an all-expense paid Disney cruise to the Bahamas in October of 2012, and the absolute joy Jacob experienced is a memory that will never fade.

"It was a vacation of a lifetime, something we had never done before and no way could afford to do again in the future," Thomas Hilliker said. "We got to see Jacob do things on that trip that we hadn't seen before.

"Our child was so happy, he was dancing, something his doctors said he'd never be able to do. And to this day, he can't dance like he did on that boat."

Make A Wish had a limo pick Jacob and his family up at their home, drive them to the airport, and everything on their adventure was first-class start to finish.

"No Triple A travel organization could do what Make-A-Wish did for Jacob and our family," Thomas said.

"Tangible things last only so long. But memories are implanted and last forever."

There will be several unforgettable moments April 5 at the Civic Center. The old barn has tradition and history bouncing off its walls. Become a part of it.

Help make someone's wish come true.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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