By Adam Smith

The North Jefferson News

While 16-year-old wrestler Brandon Cato continues to receive care, members of the Gardendale firefighters union are joining together to help offset the Cato family’s medical expenses.

Nathan Aldrich, a firefighter and member of the Gardendale Professional Firefighters Association, said the tournament was a way to show support for Cato and also help raise money for the family. The tournament is scheduled to be held April 21 at Castle Pines Country Club, with registration beginning at 7 a.m.

The golf tournament will represent the first large-scale charity event for the union, which was formed last year.

“The firefighters were really wanting to help,” Aldrich said. “Being that we are part of the Gardendale community, everybody knows everybody, especially at the high school.”

Cato, a member of the Gardendale High School wrestling team, was injured Dec. 22 in a wrestling tournament at Sumiton Christian Academy. The injury, which Cato’s father Barry described as a freak accident, left Brandon with two fractured vertebrae and partial paralysis.

Cato also suffered numerous complications from the injury, including high fevers and delayed surgeries to fuse the vertebrae back together. He was moved from UAB Hospital to The Shepherd, a rehabilitation center in Atlanta, on Feb. 5. Barry Cato said his son has made a marked improvement since the move, but his progress is being measured one day at a time.

“He hasn’t physically improved a lot, but the care over here is geared for spinal cords and brain injuries,” Barry Cato said. “They’re experts in the field and I think it’s getting better. He’s still got a long way to go.”

Cato said his son’s spirits are also beginning to improve, because Brandon is around more teens at the facility.

“When he was at UAB, he was in a hospital bed,” he said. “Now he leaves his room and can go outside. It’s a different experience.”

The union is raising money through entry fees and sponsorships for the tournament. Entry fees are $75 per player or $300 for a four-man scramble. About half the entry fee will go toward the use of the golf course, while the rest will go toward the charity fund.

Additionally, sponsorships range from $25 up to $1,000. Aldrich welcomed businesses and individuals to sponsor holes. Sponsors will receive special recognition before, during and after the event, which will also include signs throughout the tournament.

There will also be different contests held at the tournament, including a longest drive contest and “closest to the pin” contest. However, most players will likely be interested in the hole-in-one contest.

Aldrich said the union would like to give away a car for the hole-in-one challenge. He said the type of car has not been decided and the union will have to pay a $400 insurance fee on the car. However, the union needs at least $400 in donations before the insurance fee can be paid.

Cato said he greatly appreciated the efforts of the union to help his family, and also asked for continued prayers and support for his family. “Just keep pulling for him,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”

For more information about the tournament, call Nathan Aldrich at 965-1140.

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