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Before Robert "Bobby" Warner Ratliff lost his battle with skin cancer in May 2003, family friends Jim Holcomb and Phil Mani made a promise to care for Bobby's family. After that promise was fulfilled, the Ratliff Foundation charity, created in 2003 by Jim and Phil, continues its annual sporting clay shoot and donates funds raised to Cook Children's in Bobby's memory.
Bobby Ratliff knew the small bump on his wrist wasn't normal, so he decided to have it checked out. What many doctors initially thought was a miniscule cyst turned out to be something more serious. Jim Holcomb, one of Bobby's dearest friends and one of the original trustees of the Ratliff Foundation, remembers that time in his friend's life vividly.
By the time the doctors had officially diagnosed Bobby, it was already too late. Doctors concluded he had a rare form of melanoma and it became obvious that Bobby would lose his battle with the disease.
"On his death bed, I promised Bobby that I would care for his kids," Jim said. "I told him I would make sure that his two boys went to college."
As it turned out, Bobby had made provisions for his children's education, but the mission of the Ratliff Foundation had just begun. Before Bobby passed away, Jim and Phil established the Robert and John Ratliff Scholarship and Cancer Research Fund Inc. Shortly after he passed away, they began to raise funds in August 2003 by hosting a series of clay shoots with a handful of volunteers and support from many professional landmen, attorneys and oil and gas companies.
"Bobby was a contract landman, so he knew a lot of people in the business. After he died, they wanted to help his family, as well," said Jim.
Jim and Phil's efforts paid off. Bobby's sons, Robert and John, both attended The University of Mississippi for their undergraduate degrees. Today, Robert has moved into the master's program at the University of Texas at Austin and John is in dental school at Baylor University.
Now that the promise to Bobby has been fulfilled, the Ratliff Foundation is continuing to give to an organization that is committed to finding a cure for cancer, and also helping kids. This will be the foundation's 15th year and the 10th year to partner with Cook Children's through its annual clay shoot.
The Ratliff Foundation Clay Shoot benefits the Cook Children's Hematology and Oncology Center, in remembrance of Bobby. Jim said the most amazing thing about partnering with Cook Children's is learning where their donation is going.
"At last year's event, Cook Children's shared a story about a little boy that had leukemia. We were informed that one of the tests administered to this little boy was covered by the Ratliff Foundation," said Jim. "Our donation not only covered the costs of this test, it also helped saved that little boy's life and now, he's cancer-free. There wasn't a dry eye at that clay shoot. That kind of stuff makes all of it worth it."