By Leah Sander
WINONA LAKE — The first-ever Joe’s Kids golf tournament started with a bang.
Or rather a drop of 132 golf balls from a helicopter.
Gary Cleveland with Cleveland Helicopter Services of Plymouth dropped the balls at the event on Tuesday, June 15, at Stonehenge Golf Course, Winona Lake. Event attendees could purchase a numbered ball. Those who had the three closest balls to the 18th hole after the drop won cash prizes.
As for the scramble itself, 76 people on 19 teams were signed up. Joe’s Kids Executive Director Rebecca Bazzoni said the event was “to help build awareness” for the Warsaw organization, which provides therapy to more than 400 kids with special needs annually.
“Also you know as we looked at the challenges of this last year and COVID, golf seemed like a great thing to do where we could social-distance a little bit and be outdoors, so no matter what we were facing come June we knew it would be a good option for us,” she said.
Bazzoni said she estimated the organization was to receive more than $15,000 as a result of the tournament.
“We provide physical, occupational and speech therapy for children with special needs and that’s a little bit unusual in a town our size. The reimbursements for this service are pretty low, so a lot of smaller communities don’t have a pediatric clinic and yet it’s a really critical piece of health care for families with special needs,” she said.
“So the money that we raise today will really help to provide therapy services for the kids to kind of cover some of our operational losses,” she said. The losses aren’t related to COVID-19, but are to help make up for what Medicaid and private insurance don’t cover.
Bazzoni said the community was generous in giving last year.