After losing father to cancer, former DHS student starts non-profit to help others

Catherine Baker and her father, Ronnie.

When her dad, Ronnie, passed away five years ago from brain cancer, Catherine Baker knew that one day she wanted to be in a position to help those battling the disease. Now, Baker’s non-profit, Team Ronnie, will hold a fundraiser with proceeds being donated directly to two families impacted by cancer.

“(My dad) was always the first person to reach out a helping hand to someone in need and I wanted to continue to have that done under his name,” Baker said. “I was only 17 when he passed so it took some time and knowledge to be able to get to where we are now, but I’m so happy to have finally started this.”

The Team Ronnie Golf Tournament was held on June 29 at Oak Knoll Country Club. One of the families that benefited from the fundraiser is well-known to Baker and her family. While the family wanted to keep some information about their battle with cancer private, Baker did say she graduated with their daughter from Destrehan High School and even took a trip with the family to Disney World.

“They’re extremely kind and humble people,” Baker added. “Before this, I hadn’t talked to them in years but it always stuck with me how nice they were to me so I knew I wanted to help them.”

The other beneficiary is Neil Hardin who lives in Belle Chasse and is battling a rare form of lymphoma. Hardin served for more than 27 years in the U.S. Air Force.

“His journey has been hard but he’s extremely strong and is surrounded by support,” Baker said. “Their story touched my heart because it felt so similar to ours, just a wholesome family being affected by something so terrible. His wife, Holly, has supplemented her pay by working details when she can but it’s so hard to worry about working when your husband is fighting something so hard at home.

“Both families are incredible people who deserve the support of their community.”

Baker knows what each family is going through due to what she and her family experienced during her father’s fight against cancer.

“My dad’s fight against cancer was not easy, but he would never admit it. It started after my mom noticed he was dragging his feet during a family vacation in Disney World and quickly turned into him being diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer on my 16th birthday,” Baker said. “We almost immediately knew that this wasn’t the type of cancer that someone beats, especially after he had surgery to remove his tumors and the doctor couldn’t get it all.”

After that surgery, Baker said her father slowly declined for 17 months before passing away. Watching him suffer was extremely hard for the Baker family.

“Since the cancer was on his brain it affected things that not all types of cancer affects,” Baker said. “His entire thought process and way of thinking slowly changed. Over the span of his fight he became more confused and less like himself because his brain was truly changing. That was probably the hardest part for all of us, just watching what it did to him and that he couldn’t control it.”

But Baker also remembers all the ways the community stepped in to provide support. Dat Dad’s Club hosted a benefit at the West Bank Bridge Park that helped the family with basic living expenses.

“There’s no words for how much this meant to us,” she said. “My dad had to quit his job early on and my mom eventually lost her job as well because of how much time off she needed to be there for him. Something that people typically don’t think about is how life goes on during that time when bills are due and food needs to be put on the table.

“That’s why we’re now so passionate about helping other people that are in the same situation.”

Baker now attends Southeastern, and has actually been brought closer to her best friend there due to shared tragedy.

“My best friend’s dad (Matthew Howcott) also passed away from the same exact cancer as my dad. Her and I met in college and became close after realizing our lives were so similar,” she said. “They had the same cancer, same treatments during the same time, and her and I were the same age during all of it.

“It was just an insane coincidence because their cancer is so rare and this all happened at the exact same time, the exact same way and their daughters coincidentally became friends.”

While Baker said she tries her best to uplift and support both families she is holding a fundraiser for, monetary donations are extremely important. If you would like to donate, please visit: