Racks for a Heart Racks Up Funds For Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation
by James Coulter
John Nipper was a long-time friend of Michael Culpepper, a local security officer who passed away last year from cardiac arrest. So when he and his friend, Preston Craft, learned a pool tournament would be hosted in Michael’s honor, they decided to join. Not only did they have a good time, but also their team won first place.
John owes his victory to “lots of alcohol.” He loves to play pool, and he appreciates the tournament being held in his late friend’s honor. He also admires Melanie Brown Culpepper, Michael’s fiancée, for starting Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation in his honor and spreading awareness about heart health.
“It was freaking awesome to win first place,” John said. “I think this was a fantastic tournament, and for a good cause. I am very proud of the work Melanie continues to do, the strives that they make in education and promoting heart-healthy choices in the community, and making advancements in fire rescue gear.”
The inaugural Racks for a Heart pool tournament was hosted last Saturday at Slates 8 in Winter Haven. Nearly a dozen teams competed in the game, and several dozen prize baskets were raffled off during the 50/50 raffle.
Melanie hosted the tournament as part of her fundraising efforts to finance and install defibrillators in the community. This year, she had already hosted a 5K race and fishing tournament, and used the proceeds to install two defibrillators: one in her salon, Melanie’s Cutting Edge, and another at Old Man Frank’s, where her fiancée served as a security officer.
She was especially pleased by the turnout for the pool tournament, which more than met her initial expectations. As always, she could not have been able to host the event without the support from her volunteers and the local community.
“I was very proud of everyone who came out and Slates who went above and beyond to help me put this together,” she said. “It was better than my expectations. I did not know what to expect coming into this, but it was way better than I thought.”
Bree Kirkland works as a bartender at Slates. She assisted with the tournament that day. She considered the cause a good one and was pleased to see it succeed.
“I think [Melanie] did an awesome job,” she said. “I liked how everybody came together as a family and brought everything as it should be. I think everything went well. It is nice seeing everyone come together as a family to support each other and support Melanie. I think it went above and beyond everyone’s expectations.”
Bobby Jean is a close friend of Melanie and Michael. Following Michael’s passing, he helped Melanie in her endeavors over the past six months. Though the tournament did not have as many players as she expected, the event still turned out great, and she enjoyed being able to participate and win second place.
“The tournament went well,” she said. “I think it is a great cause and a great foundation. She did a bang-up job putting it together, and it really took off.”
Rhonda Bryan knew how Melanie felt. Melanie helped raise money for her and her husband, who passed away from brain cancer. So when Michael passed away, she and Melanie grew closer together, and Melanie asked her to join her foundation. They had been on this journey together for quite some time, and she appreciated how well everything turned out for the tournament, especially since it was for a good cause.
“My thoughts on the foundation is that it is a great foundation and one of the best ideas and something we needed in the area, especially with the defibrillators, especially in our local bars and restaurants,” she said. “It is there, and we are raising money and awareness, and hopefully, it will continue to grow bigger and stronger.”
For more information about Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation, visit: https://www.facebook.com/honoringculpepper