Christmas in July. One family’s tragedy becomes a $1 million gift to their neighbors.
Season 3 – Episode 7
This story has everything: Laughter. Tears. Family. Community. Generosity. Softball.
… AND: Punk rock. John Oliver. A taco bar.
Ed Buehler is 40 years old. Every year — every July — since he was born, his family and friends have organized a softball tournament for someone with big medical expenses.
“It’s like a holiday for us in the family,” he says. “You know, another one that just happens to, to come in July.”
The tournament started in 1980 as a fund-raiser for Ed’s dad, Denny Buehler, a young father who was battling leukemia and needed to travel to Seattle for treatment.
These days, the tournament typically raises about $10,000 each year.
“I don’t want to say $10,000 is not a lot of money,” Ed Buehler said. “But life is hard and when something’s gotten in your way, $10,000 doesn’t go really, really far.”
For 2019, the Denny Buehler Memorial Foundation took on a new project. The foundation decided to buy up old medical debt — at pennies on the dollar — to pay off $1 million in debt for neighbors in the Cincinnati community.
Ed’s sister, Jenny Spring — who started running the tournament as a young punk-rocker, when the previous generation of organizers said they were done — says the Foundation hopes to eventually wipe out $37 million in medical debts for people around Cincinnati. “There’s no reason to stop,” she says.
And the softball tournament? Still going strong.
To get medical debts forgiven, the Foundation works with RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit founded by two former debt collectors.
RIP Medical Debt gained Jenny’s attention — and lots of other people’s too — when John Oliver worked with the group to forgive $15 million in debts, in 2015.