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Birdies for the Brave helps military

Sports

Birdies for the Brave helps military

Donna Chapman proudly notes that her uncle was a lance corporal in the U.S. Marines. Likewise, four of her great-uncles served in the U.S. military. When the Windham woman's opportunity to help those, like her uncles, who defend the United States, came along, she jumped at the chance.

"My grandmother worked in the South Portland shipyard during World War ll," said Chapman, president of the New England Chapter of Operation Homefront. "So, I guess I like to think my grandmother did her part and I am doing mine as a civilian."

Chapman remembered she first became involved with Operation Homefront – which provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors – back in 2007 after she learned of the stresses families go through when a loved one is deployed.

"These families sacrifice a lot and no one comes back the same," she said recently, noting how charity golf tournaments like the ones held at Tournament Players Club (TPC) Boston in Norton, Mass., on July 5 and a similar event set for Aug. 23 at Connecticut's TPC River Highlands to benefit Birdies for the Brave (a PGA Tour charity), help U.S. veterans and their families.

The escalation of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan has resulted in 260 American casualties through July 25 this year, meaning 2010 is shaping up as the deadliest year of the war for U.S. troops. With 16 percent of Maine's population having served in the military (among the highest percentage of veterans in U.S. states), Chapman feels her job is becoming increasingly important to help organize events like the 3rd Annual New England Commercial Real Estate Charity Shot-Gun Open Golf Tournament to benefit her organization scheduled for Aug. 12 at Windham (N.H.) Country Club.

The Windham CC event will include breakfast at registration, golf and lunch. Contributions are $560 to register a foursome for golf, $150 to register a single golfer, and $35 per person for lunch only. Individuals and groups looking to participate can contact Robert Cavanna at 603-275-1842. Those unable to attend can contribute online at operationhomefront.net/NewEngland/donate.aspx

"We as an organization could not help these families without the community support, as funding is always an issue in the non-profit world, even more so in these tough economic times," Chapman said.

The golf community, Chapman noted, helps at the national level with programs like the PGA Tour's Birdies for The Brave (http://www.birdiesforthebrave.org/index.aspx).

"But local clubs and individuals are helping raise much-needed funds through charity events like the one at Windham CC " said Chapman, also noting how Mainer Peter McFarland raised several thousand dollars for her chapter with a silent auction during this year's Portland Golf Expo.

Another way local golfers can help U.S. veterans is through Patriot Golf Day. Scheduled for Labor Day weekend Sept. 3-6, Patriot Golf Day is the flagship fundraiser for the Folds of Honor Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides postsecondary educational scholarships for the children and spouses of military men and women disabled or killed while serving their country.

Golfers across the country are asked to add an extra dollar to their greens fees Labor Day weekend to fund Folds of Honor scholarships. The PGA of America and the United States Golf Association jointly support the Patriot Golf Day campaign.

According to the event Web site, the inaugural Patriot Golf Day in 2007 was started by Major Dan Rooney, a F-16 Pilot, PGA professional, and USGA member. Rooney's request of golfers to add $1 to their greens fees resulted in donations of more than $1.1 million from more than 3,200 golf facilities. In the last three years, golfers nationwide have helped raise more than $5.3 million through Patriot Golf Day events.

Golf clubs are encouraged to become participating facilities. Local Maine courses listed as active participants in Patriot Golf Day on the program Web site include Sanford Golf Club, Norway Country Club and Springbrook Golf Club in Leeds.

Patriot Golf Day is seeking volunteers through its Wing Commander Program that attracts PGA professionals and other volunteers. Wing Commanders are the official ambassadors of Patriot Golf Day. Duties include contacting golf facilities to encourage participation in Patriot Golf Day and identifying families who are eligible for Folds of Honor Scholarships. Those interested in becoming a Wing Commander and supporting the Folds of Honor Foundation can fill out a form at patriotgolfday.com/wing_commander_program.php.

Golfers seeking to help military members and their families have many options, said Chapman, noting that even miniature golf aficionados can assist via a BAE Systems of New Hampshire mini golf event being planned that will be publicized on the Operation Homefront New England Chapter Web site, operationhomefront.net/newengland/

Concluded Chapman: "It is so rewarding to have the golf community helping out. We can raise a lot of much-needed revenue and have fun doing it."