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Kelly on mend, hosts record turnout

Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly served as host to his 25th annual Celebrity Golf Tournament this morning at Batavia's Terry Hills Golf Course. A total of 60 fivesomes (each including a celebrity) jammed the 27-hole course in what Kelly called a record turnout for the event.

The event benefits the Kelly for Kids Foundation and the Hunter's Hope Foundation.

Kelly was walking around fine but was not swinging any golf clubs becuase he's recovering from major back surgery three weeks ago. Kelly said he had two discs replaced in his lower back and a metal plate inserted. Bills orthopedist Dr. Andrew Cappuccino did the surgery.

"It got to a point where I couldn’t even play basketball with my daughter anymore," Kelly said. "When I got up in the morning, it took me 15, 20 minutes to even get loose. I couldn’t put socks on anymore. That’s not a way to live. From hits, twisting the body, a little bit of everything. It’s just been getting worse and worse and worse. I couldn’t handle the pain anymore."

"Once he got in there, there was a lot more damage than he thought there was going to be, so he wound up having to put a metal plate in," Kelly said. "He had to go through my side, so I have two nice scars there that just add to the other scars I have on my body."

The tournament and auction raises a couple hundred thousand dollars annually for Kelly's two charities. Golfers get to bid on the celebrity they want to play with the night before the tournament. This year ESPN's Chris Berman received the highest bid; drawing $10,000 from a foursome that got to play with him today. Many of the Bills from the Kelly era attended, as well as Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Freeman, Rob Gronkowski and other athletes and actors.

The Hunter's Hope Foundation continues to fight for increases in the number of diseases that are part of standard newborn screening in every state. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention recently cited advancements in newborn screening among the 10 great public health achievements in the United States from 2001-2010. New York screens newborns for 54 diseases; it screened for just 11 when Kelly's son, Hunter, was born in 1997.

The American College of Medical Genetics currently recommends screening for 55 diseases, which are broken into core and secondary panels. According to the CDC’s statement, “In 2003, all but four states were screening for only six of these disorders,” which include both metabolic and other heritable disorders. The CDC went on to note “by April 2011, all states reported screening for at least 26 disorders on an expanded and standardized uniform panel.”

But, Kelly said, the fight to increase screening continues. "We have states that are at 60 and we have some states still at 30. It's hard to understand why it's taking so long. But we continue to try to get it as high as we can."

---Mark Gaughan

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