PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Gaillardia Country Club of Oklahoma City, the club that sent an inspirational message to its peers last summer by embracing wounded veterans with employment, exceeded its own fundraising expectations ahead of this holiday season.
Following an audit earlier this month, donations from a "Fairways for Freedom" event on Oct. 5 generated $200,000 after expenses. Those funds will be distributed between the Folds of Honor Foundation and Feherty's Troops First Foundation.
"What you found is a remarkable effort for benefiting both families of our veterans at Folds of Honor and also helping veterans directly through Troops First," said Maj. Ed Pulido of Edmond, Okla., senior vice president of public relations and military affairs for the Folds of Honor Foundation. "This was one of the top five all-time single fundraising events that Folds of Honor has been associated with. These individuals have a giving heart and truly care about our military men and women across the country."
PGA Professional Peter Vitali, executive director and director of golf at Gaillardia Country Club, said he was inspired by a speech by John Hines, the 2011 PGA Patriot Award recipient, who spoke about the energy and atmosphere that a club creates during a tournament.
"I was inspired to do something similar for the Gaillardia community and knew the club would rally behind and support it," said Vitali. "Fairways for Freedom began as a vision and blossomed into something extraordinary. My vision was that we could raise $100,000, and we doubled it. We had six months to pull it off, and the response from the club and our community was outstanding."
The event honored the 45th Infantry Brigade of the Oklahoma National Guard, with guidance from Adjutant Gen. Myles Deering, and featured CBS/Golf Channel broadcaster David Feherty as master of ceremonies at a dinner and silent auction. Feherty is co-founder of the Troops First Foundation.
"There was a tremendous response from the Gaillardia community in showing support and providing assistance to the families of killed and wounded veterans, who have made such great sacrifices on our behalf," said event co-chair Wade Ferguson, president of Cheyenne Energy Services of Oklahoma City. "We had all branches of the military represented. We filled our driving range with a display of military equipment, including a cannon which was used to signal the start of the golf event.
"We opened our club to all active and retired military and their families and invited them to come out, mingle and enjoy lunch which was donated and served by seven local restaurants. With David Feherty as a guest speaker and master of ceremonies for the evening events, it made for a very memorable day!"
Gaillardia Country Club, opened in 1998, includes 450 men and women members from throughout the country. While the club plans its 2013 Fairways for Freedom event, Vitali said he was uplifted about the path of two veterans whom he hired last summer.
Sgt. John McLemore and Sgt. Scott Nelson, each veterans of the Iraq war, have moved to different positions. McLemore is in Las Vegas, an aspiring playing professional under the tutelage of Butch Harmon, while Nelson is a machinist in Oklahoma City.
"We are definitely going to continue to hire veterans on our staff," said Vitali. "The impact of John and Scott upon our membership and the public awareness created for Fairways for Freedom has opened doors to new opportunities.
"This event was one of the best things that I have ever been associated with from both a professional and civic sense. David Feherty's speech was both inspiring and sincere. It was another example of what a patriot he is."
About The Folds of Honor Foundation
The Folds of Honor Foundation, founded in 2007, provides post-secondary educational scholarships for children and spouses of military service men and women killed or disabled while serving our Great Nation. The Foundation's principal national fundraiser is Patriot Golf Day, which is conducted during the Labor Day weekend.
About Feherty's Troops First Foundation
Founded in August 2008 by David Feherty and Rick Kell of Bethesda, Md., Feherty's Troops First Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports programs and specialized events designed for Wounded Warriors and their families that address relationship building, mentoring, reintegration, and looking forward.