Cornhole for a cause at GoodLife Brewing

Video: Bend tournament benefits Heart of Oregon Corps

By Scott Hammers / The Bulletin


Published Jul 27, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Jul 27, 2014 at 02:54AM

Ron Miller thinks he’s figured out why cornhole is becoming the summertime backyard game of choice, in Bend and beyond.

“Horseshoes are dangerous. There’s no such thing as lawn darts anymore, because those are also dangerous,” he said. “You get hit in the head with a beanbag, you’re not going to the hospital.”

Saturday, Miller and partner Marcus Crespi were one of 19 two-person teams at a cornhole tournament at GoodLife Brewing on Bend’s west side, taking turns lobbing beanbags filled with dried corn at a hole in a wooden slab — all to support Heart of Oregon Corps.

Laura Handy, executive director for Heart of Oregon Corps, said the game was a good fit for the Bend group’s first foray into fundraising events.

“We wanted to do a fun fundraiser that taps into the fun culture of Bend in the summertime and raise some money for a great cause at the same time,” she said.

Founded in 2000, Heart of Oregon Corps works to teach job skills to young people from 16 to 24, many of whom dropped out of high school. Handy said those who sign up with the program — about 250 at any given time — are paid to do forest-fuels reduction, litter cleanup, trail maintenance, home construction and other projects.

Sluggish economic conditions in recent years have presented a barrier to teens and young people looking to land their first jobs, Handy said.

“In our recession, when people were out of work, jobs that might have been filled by young people are being filled by older adults,” she said.

Between entrance fees and an auctioning of seven custom-built cornhole sets, Saturday’s tournament was likely to raise less than $5,000, Hardy said, and was more of a “friend-raiser,” intended to raise the group’s public profile.

Similarly, cornhole has maintained a fairly low profile on the West Coast until recently.

Kevin Houser, a lifelong Bend resident, said he only discovered cornhole on a trip to the East Coast a few years ago. Houser washed out of Saturday’s tournament in the earlier rounds but called cornhole “a great game.”

“I didn’t even know what cornhole was until I went to Virginia,” Houser said. “They were all like, ‘Let’s go play cornhole.’ What? What are you talking about?”

Aaron Byers, of Bend, discovered cornhole even more recently, having played about 10 games over the past few months. In anticipation of Saturday’s tournament, he went out to practice and taught himself a new technique to combat the crosswinds, learning to toss the bag in the style of a Frisbee as opposed to the more common tumbling, underhanded lob.

Shortly after dropping three bags in a row cleanly through the hole Saturday, Byers shrugged off praise and said it was his partner, not him, keeping them in the tournament.

“He carries us most of the time,” he said. “I just got lucky.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com