Fighting for a cause; MMA fighter raising money for cystic fibrosis

April 26, 2010 |

Buddy Hilseberg sat in the warm, mid-April sun on the patio, smoking his cigar, and looked up towards the sky as he talked about his beloved daughter, Catherine.

“Everyone loved her, she made a lot of friends here; Brian [Recher] still puts her initials in all the new cement all around Rec Room,” Hilseberg, who helps run Recher Theater in Towson, said.

Catherine Hilseberg Baughman was only 26-years-old when she died on March 24, 2006, from cystic fibrosis — one month after her wedding. But through friends and family, her memory lives on as those who knew her still find ways to help raise money to cure the disease.

A picture of Catherine Hilseberg Baughman hangs in the pool room of Rec Room in Towson, Md.

Craig Machado, a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, knew Catherine before she died, and came up with the idea to find sponsors for his upcoming fight in June to raise money for CF4CF(Catherine’s Fund for Cystic Fibrosis) – an organization set up by Baughman’s husband, cousin and best friend.

“I always see people get sponsored for walk-athons and half marathons…” Machado said. “So I figured if people can get sponsored for walking 10 miles, why can’t I get sponsored for punching someone in the face?”

Machado’s next fight is his 145-pound title fight for the Barbarian Fight Club in Va. on June 19.

“Other people get sponsored for walking…but at the same time that is all they’re doing: walking. I figure I’m getting punched in the head and probably will get injured; I’m putting myself in danger.” said Machado. “Fine, I do it willingly, it’s what I love to do, but why not take that facet of my life that I love so much and help people.”

Buddy Hilseberg has known Machado for a few years and supports any reason to help CF4CF.

“If he wins, the money should go to this fund, if he loses it should go to doctor’s bills,” joked Hilseberg.

“But it is incredible, people with that imagination. It’s something I wouldn’t have thought of. I’m the old guys doing the lemonade stands–but people that come up with these ideas about a cause that really helps kids is a good thing for whatever reason they do it,” said Hilseberg.

CF4CF was developed by Julie Higgins Sussan, Catherine’s husband Jeff Baughman and her cousin Joe Hilseberg as a way to raise money in Catherine’s name to raise money to find a cure for cystic fibrosis.

“When Catherine passed away we were all devastated.  We felt so much pain and had wished so badly that she could have benefited from the new research that is going on right now,” Sussan, Catherine’s best friend, said.  “We knew that we had to help so that other relatives and friends of people living with CF wouldn’t have to feel the same pain.”

CF4CF has already raised over $40,000 for The Maryland Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

A lot of support came from Rec Room in Towson, Md., the bands Crack the Sky and Mr. Greengenes who have put on benefit concerts, The World Series of Flip Cup held at Rec Room and Paul Reed Smith Guitars, who donated a signed guitar for a fundraiser.

“I love Craig’s idea and do feel that events like these bring awareness to all different groups of people.  Our goal is to target as many different types of people as possible to raise awareness and help find a cure for this disease before it takes more people who could live a long full life,” said Sussan.

The type of person Catherine was reflects why so many have already helped CF4CF.

“I think people go the extra mile not just because she was sick, but because she was a good kid,” said Hilseberg. “What Craig is doing is pretty good because he really liked her. The crew here at Rec Room would do a lot for her, too. And if Craig needed help from any of these guys here they would do it; not just for him but for her.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiInT8BVnHk&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]
Sussan, who was close to Catherine, remembers her as the friend always ready to listen and make others laugh.

“Catherine never wanted to be treated differently because of her CF, she wanted to live every day like it was her last because unfortunately right now with this disease you never know when you may come down with a serious respiratory infection or some illness that could ultimately be the end,” said Sussan.

“So help us fight, like Craig is, and find a cure for this disease so there are no longer more stories that end like Catherine’s.  Help other people to live their life to the fullest and honor Catherine’s memory as she truly deserves,” continued Sussan.

Catherine has been gone for four years, but for those who knew her, she is far from forgotten, especially with ideas and fundraisers like these.

“I think any fund raising is good fund raising.  It’s all about spreading awareness. The best part about working with CFF of MD is that they are open to any avenue of fund raising that we see fit, and they have supported us in all of them,” Joe Hilseberg, Catherine’s cousin, said.

Joe Hilseberg helped start CF4CF after losing Catherine four years ago.

“I just want people to realize that fund-raising today does not have to be boring, or somber– it can be fun!  That is how Catherine was with her life, so why wouldn’t we raise money the same way?” said Joe Hilseberg.

Cystic fibrosis affects over 30 thousand children and adults every year in the United States. Where people once barely lived past elementary school ages, research today has allowed many with CF to live well into their 30′s, 40′s and older.

Machado is hoping to find sponsor’s for him to fight. The deal: if he wins, double what you offered and all proceeds go directly to research for CF.

“Craig is a very tough fighter mentally and physically.  He likes to set a goal and work to reach it, and he has done other charitable work in the past,” Lee Synkowski, Machado’s coach at Baltimore BJJ, said.

Synkowski, who owns Baltimore BJJ, has known Machado for three years.

“Craig is very affected by the things that happen to people in his life and always wants to help them and remember them. I am not surprised to hear that he wants to help his friends daughter’s memory,” said Synkowski.

Machado will be training under Synkowski and striking coach Rahsaan Kimbro to try to win his fight in June; not only for him but for Catherine.

“You better believe if I’m fighting and it stands to help a cause that is way bigger than I am…I’m putting someone’s teeth in the back of their head; that’s the way it’s going to have to be — on behalf of someone I love,” said Machado. “It’s that simple. I love Catherine. I love Buddy. And I’m going to do my best to represent them well.”

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