Grand Prairie Medal of Honor Navy Seal Lt. Speaks at Weekend Golf Tournament

Mike Thornton in military uniform
Photo Credit: Prudence Mathis, Public Relations & Awareness Director, David Nicklas Organ Donor Awareness Foundation, Inc.

GRAND PRAIRIE – Medal of Honor recipient, Retired Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael Thornton was the honored guest and speaker this past Saturday at the David Nicklas Organ Donor Awareness Foundation’s annual fundraising golf tournament in Grand Prairie.

Lt. Thornton received the United States military’s highest decoration for his heroism in the Vietnam War in 1972. Although Thornton was wounded, he saved the life of his senior officer.

“It is an honor to be invited to be a part of the Nicklas Foundation Golf Tournament this year,” Lt. Thornton said. “It is always a privilege to be able to talk with men and women in our community about the needs of others and the impact that a nonprofit like the Nicklas Foundation has on so many people. It is my honor to spend the day with everyone.”

The 13th annual golf tournament was held at the Tangle Ridge Golf Course in Grand Prairie.  The City’s Mayor, Ron Jensen, greeted the 144 players prior to tee off.

The David Nicklas Organ Donor Awareness Foundation charity golf tournament founder, Rodney DeBaun started the organization after receiving a heart transplant 28 years ago. His gift of life came from 22-year-old 2nd Lieutenant David Nicklas. In the spirit of “paying it forward,” the foundation was created in memory of David.

“I have been given 28 years of “life” seeing my boys grow from eight and 11 years old to fine young men and seeing them become better men than I, now with three grandchildren, that I thought I would never live long enough to experience,” DeBaun said. “I am truly blessed, and I feel I must earn every day that I have been given.”

Promoting Organ Donor Awareness

The money raised at the event for the David Nicklas Organ Donor Awareness Foundation, Inc is to continue to promote organ donor awareness. In addition it helps provide fully furnished rent-free housing for transplant patients who live too far from a transplant center.

So far, the organization has helped 110 families with housing needs. They have hailed from 15 states and their ages range from three months to 77 years old. Currently there are Foundation units set aside for transplant families at Prairie Gate Community, The Retreat, and Wright Senior Apartments. Since 1997, the organization has also awarded over $150,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors enrolled in Grand Prairie ISD.

The organization also donates two-third of net proceeds to other charities as well. The Nicklas Foundation, Crisis Response Ministry (aka known as CRM), and the Michael E. Thornton Foundation (aka known as the METFUND) will be the beneficiaries this year of the additional proceeds.

Remembering Jim Swafford

group of people around a table
Jim Swafford, GPPD Chief Steve Dye, Rodney DeBaun, Prudence Mathis, Golf Pro and Guinness World Record Holder Michael Furrh, and actor Burton Gilliam. Photo Credit: Prudence Mathis, Public Relations & Awareness Director, David Nicklas Organ Donor Awareness Foundation, Inc.

The golf tournament was also dedicated to the memory of former Grand Prairie City Council Member, Jim Swafford and his wife, Judy, long-time friends, and supporters of the tournament. Swafford served as a Grand Prairie City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem from 1977-1979. In 1998, he was elected to serve District 2 and repeatedly served through 2020. During this timeframe, he was selected to serve as Mayor Pro Tem five times. He also served as Vice President and Finance Chair of the Grand Prairie Sports Facilities Development Corporation as well as Chair of the City Council’s Finance and Government Committee.

DeBaun and Swafford knew each other for 40 years and were great friends. Both were avid golfers, Swafford age 84 passed away from COVID last year.

“As I’ve said many times, there are people who have the ability to give back to the community and don’t, but Rodney has given back so much, not only to our community in Grand Prairie, but to the overall mission of organ donor awareness,” Mayor Jensen concluded. “His foundation has helped many individual organ recipients by providing housing for them. You simply can’t put a price tag on this.”