Posted by Randy Coker and Brenda Snider
With the Christmas season rapidly approaching, it’s not a convenient time of year to think about golf.
But for many local children, their needs have no calendar and that’s where the Rotary Loves Kids annual golf tournament plays such a huge role.
The tournament, which completed its 16th year in 2018, has raised almost $1.5 million over that period with the local Rotary Club of Belleville handing out most of that money to support children’s programs in the community.
Rotarians Randy Coker and Brenda Snider sat down with The Intelligencer Thursday morning and while the pair didn’t commit to a date, did say the tournament will proceed again in 2019 sometime in July.
Snider said people need to understand the value of the tournament and how much it does for local youth. In addition to the annual golf tournament, Rotary Loves Kids also hosts the popular Party in the Square following the golf. This year, because of construction issues in Market Square, the after-party was held at Signal Brewery.
“I don’t think the community really understands where the money goes — they hear golf tournament and think, okay its raising money for the community,” said Snider. “Rotary Loves Kids does so much good for our youth and some other groups as well, but primarily kids, and the good thing is all of the money raised at the golf tournament goes toward these programs and none goes toward operational costs.”
In 2018, for only the fifth time in its 16-year history the tournament surpassed the $100,000 mark, bringing in $110,000.
“We were getting a little worried that the tournament had run its course because there had been a little bit of a dip the last few years,” explained Coker. “But we had a very good year in 2018 and we’re hopeful that we can continue on. We’re always looking for ways to improve the (event) because it is so important for Rotary to continue supporting all these things.”
Over the last year Rotary has shelled out $100,000 to youth programs including:
• $28,000 to more than 20 youth community groups
• $27,000 for wheelchairs and equipment for special needs children’s
• $24,000 for Community And Safety Well-Being
• $10,000 for The Children’s Foundation for education bursaries
• $10,000 for Habitat for Humanity and two builds
• $5,000 to Three Oaks
• $3,000 special needs grant and Christmas party
• $2,000 Food for Learning program
• $1,000 Quinte Ballet School for sewing machine
Coker, who serves with Eric Thompson as the co-chairman for the tournament, said Rotary initiatives also help support programs outside the borders of the Quinte region. The club donated $41,000 to help improve human conditions around the globe, including drinking water projects in Uganda, Yeman, Honduras and Guatemala.
One of the programs Rotary is supporting that might not be widely known about in the community is the PACT Urban Peace program.
“If a kid is charged with a crime before they’re 18 years old, odds are they will continue to be a criminal, so what they’ve done, if they can provide some counselling, provide some coaching, provide some guidance — maybe they’re not even being fed at home or are being beat up — if they can get them going down the right path, then we have a chance of that kid becoming a contributor,” Coker said. “They started this about three years ago here and so far it has a 100 per cent success rate. Of the six kids that have gone through the program, not one has re-offended. This is a very important program for Rotary to support.”
Snider said although some of the programs Rotary supports are adult based, that support trickles down to affected children.
“Three Oaks applied for a grant because they were developing a new program, a peer-to-peer program, working with them in second-stage housing and it’s so important to get these woman back on their feet, out into the community, safe environment, in the job market and their kids are safe,” Snider said. “There are a lot of programs out there that need some support and things like Rotary Loves Kids makes it possible.”
Coker said despite all the work over the years, the satisfaction of helping those in need far outweighs any effort needed.
“We had a lady whose baby was born with a defect and needed a procedure to correct it,” he explained. “It wasn’t a big amount they needed and we were able to help them and her quote after was, ‘We want to thank Rotary for our baby’s first laugh.’
“I still get emotional when I think about that and the difference it made in a child’s life.”
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