The red shirts filled Citizens Bank Park in the Fall of 2013, each shirt proudly showing support for Team Kirkin’ It for Roger Kirk. As the team gathered for a group picture, the photographer had to back up further and further to fit the hundreds of friends and family members who were united to support Roger, who had recently been diagnosed with ALS.
Roger Kirk developed bulbar ALS earlier in 2013. He was losing his voice to the disease, but his smile and laugh lit up every room. His attitude was a needed comfort for his wife Maryanne and his children, Tim, Ryan, Joey, Jenny, and Diana.
For years, Roger had been successful in business, but it was his positivity and welcoming personality that truly made him stand out in his industry. When hundreds of supporters rallied to Roger’s side, they did so not just for what he had done in business, but for who Roger was as a person.
For over 20 years, Roger was a beloved member of Old York Road Country Club, which was the location of the ALS Golf Outing hosted by baseball great Greg Gross starting in 2012. Old York Road Country Club is like a second home to the Kirk family. When Roger was diagnosed with ALS, everyone at Old York Road came together in his honor to support Roger and the ALS cause. Now, since 2013, this event has become the Roger Kirk ALS Golf Outing Hosted by Greg Gross.
In 2013, though ALS had begun to take his voice, Roger played along with his friends at the golf outing. The next year, Roger was not physically able to play, but the turnout remained high, and he was an integral part of the event. In his short time with ALS, Roger was active in every way he could be, from attending the Walk at Citizens Bank Park, promoting the golf outing with his family, advocating for research dollars with his wife Maryanne in Washington, DC, and attending events like the Annual Celebration.
2015 was the first golf outing without Roger, but his life has made such an impression that it is like he is there with all of the players and supporters. Roger’s family kicks off the event every year with instructions on how to play, including the most important directive, which is to talk about Roger and share memories of him throughout the day.
For those who have participated in the golf outing, it is common to hear stories of Roger and his life. The comments by friends and family provide humor and catharsis, always sharing how people miss Roger and wish he was there with them that day on the course.
The Kirk Family continues to honor Roger through the golf outing and through the annual Walk in Philadelphia. Since their first Walk, Team Kirkin’ It has raised over $240,000 for the ALS cause. Roger’s life was always about bringing light and joy to others and now his family does the same by funding critical care programs and research for new treatments.
In 2013, 2014, and 2015, Team Kirkin’It was the top fundraising team and Diana Kirk, the team’s captain, has been the top individual fundraiser as well. The Kirks never wavered in their commitment to the ALS mission, including an impressive effort in 2020 when the Walk and most events were virtual. In fact, the golf outing was the only ALS fundraising event that took place in person that year.
While the family has been “Kirkin’ it” since 2013, their efforts now have widened to include more people impacted by ALS. Each year, they invite someone living with ALS to speak at their golf outing. In 2022, Stephanie Kemezis spoke to the golfers about her battle with ALS and in 2023, Marc Schefsky, a golfer like Roger, spoke with his wife Lori about his ALS journey. These stories add extra motivation to the entire Kirk family to raise money and awareness for the ALS cause to honor Roger and people like Stephanie, Marc, and others whom they have met and befriended over the past ten years.
For as much as the Kirk family has done for the ALS mission, they always want to give credit to others who have made their events and teams possible. Each year, Greg Gross and his wife Konnie Crawford bring awareness to the golf outing and help draw more participants to the event. They are also grateful to the entire staff at Old York Road Country Club, who always represent Roger and the club with class and grace and make everyone feel welcome. Since 2013, the golf outing has raised over $583,000 for our ALS mission.
Each year, Roger’s wife, Maryanne, and his children, Tim, Ryan, Joey, Jenny, and Diana, keep his name and memory alive through the golf outing, Walk, and other events. On behalf of the entire ALS community, we say thank you to the Kirk family for all that you do to support ALS care and research, always in Roger’s name and always with Roger’s optimism for the cure that we will achieve together.