by Dennis Dalman
Tom Bearson’s memory lives on, with three basketball courts planned in his honor for Pinecone Central Park.
Bearson, the son of Greg and Debbie Bearson, was a Sartell High School graduate and superb basketball player who was found murdered in Moorhead on Sept. 20, 2014. At the time, he was attending North Dakota State University, planning to become a nurse anesthetist. His murder has yet to be solved.
At the April 25 Sartell City Council meeting, Bearson’s father, Greg, gave a presentation with slide show to the council about the Tom Bearson Memorial Courts. The project will be a collaboration between Sartell and the Tom Bearson Foundation, with the foundation giving $150,000 for the courts. Greg noted the foundation already has $50,000 with the remaining $100,000 to be raised. The city’s share would be about $75,000.
Preliminary work on the courts will begin this spring in the northern area of the park.
In addressing the council, Bearson said after Tom’s death, the devastated family kept asking themselves, “Why Tom?” That incessant question caused them to question the meaning of their lives. Support from people in Sartell was crucial for their healing process. Bearson then listed some of the things the family learned: that Sartell is a wonderful community, that compassion is so important for hearts that hurt, that giving to others is the much-needed nourishment for people’s souls and that “happiness can be found in the darkness if only one learns to turn on the light.”
After the tragedy of losing their son, the Bearsons, friends and supporters began the Tom Bearson Foundation to give back to the community. In the past seven years, the 18-member foundation raised $130,000 for good deeds that included scholarships for students, an annual Tommy B. Night basketball fun fest at the high school, funds for the Sartell Community Center, guest speakers who talked to students about personal-safety strategies and a complete renovation of the gym at St. Francis Xavier School where Bearson, as a boy, loved to play basketball.
As his wife sat in the council-chamber audience, Bearson described their son as smart, funny, athletic, popular, kind and generous.
The new full-sized courts, Bearson said, will be a destination for many players from Sartell and beyond. One of the six hoops to be installed will be the hoop Tom Bearson used so often at his home while growing up. During the next few years, spectator seating will be added at the courts, as well as additional landscaping.
After Bearson’s talk, Sartell Administrator Anna Gruber showed a slide of where the courts will be located in Pinecone Central Park and then pointed out several other amenities soon to be constructed in the park: expanded parking by the dog park, ice rink by flooding that parking lot in winter, new playgrounds and more trails.
City-council members expressed excitement and gratitude about the public-private collaboration with the Tom Bearson Foundation.
There are two ways to donate to the Tom Bearson Memorial Basketball Courts project. A check can be sent to Tom Bearson Foundation, P.O. Box 351, Sartell, MN 56377. Online contributions via Paypal can also be made by going to tombearson.org/memorial-basketball-court and then scrolling down to the yellow Paypal “Donate” button.