April 2011

Heritage + Charity = CHARITAGE: The Tournament That Keeps On Giving

Author: Paula Magrini | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Heritage Classic Foundation leaders are proud to provide a generous purse annually to the tournament champion. But they’ve admitted that what is most satisfying is rewarding the unsung champions who tee it up for community.

Sandra Stinosa, the mother of two boys and recently diagnosed with breast cancer, depends on Hilton Head’s Island Rec Center to care for her boys after school while she undergoes treatment and searches for a new job. Angel and Renzo, ages five and seven, receive financial aid so their family can afford the Rec Center program despite their recent hardships. Stinosa lost her preschool teaching position about the same time she contracted cancer. Still, she said, “I believe in miracles.”

Around the corner at the Humane Association, six dogs have just been granted miracles. Executive Director Franny Gerthoffer has rescued them from the threat of euthanasia at the county shelter. Their ailments range from arthritis to conjunctivitis. “We’ll fix them up and get them running,” she said. “But that will cost hundreds of dollars for each dog.” Gerthoffer keeps the faith, counting on island donors to supplement her budget.

Budgeting secondary education concerned Chris and Beth MacMurray, parents of five children including multiple college students. Luckily, both daughter Katherine and son Kenny earned scholarships so they could pursue their degrees at Centre College and the University of Georgia. A Centre honors graduate and star member of the 2010 varsity soccer team, Katherine is now working toward her physician’s assistant degree. “I’m pursuing my dreams because of an amazing four-year scholarship,” she said.

Fifty-seven Beaufort County college students are currently receiving $271,000 in scholarship dollars from the same non-profit organization that made it possible for Katherine and brother Kenny to attend two of the country’s top universities. This organization is also the reason the Stinosas can afford the Island Rec Center’s after-school program and six canine orphans will get plenty of TLC from the Humane Association.

The Heritage Classic Foundation has donated over $20 million to Lowcountry charities since 1987. Its generosity is possible through revenue generated by the PGA TOUR event that is near and dear to the hearts of many islanders, The Heritage Golf Tournament. Proceeds from the annual tournament have allowed the foundation to touch countless Lowcountry lives—improving them, enriching them and sometimes saving them.

As the fate of The Heritage hangs in the balance while organizers and PGA TOUR officials search for a new title sponsor, benefactors dwell on the impact of the island’s most remarkably faithful donor.

“The Volunteers In Medicine Clinic served 1053 patients in 1993, the year it opened its doors, and it was a critical contribution by the Heritage Classic Foundation that kept the clinic operating,” said spokeswoman Margie Maxwell. “Last year we recorded 35,000 patient visits across 23 specialty programs. If not for the foundation’s ongoing support, nearly 5,500 patients would have gone without care.”

VIM’s patients have earnings below federal poverty levels and no access to health care. Maxwell estimates that since 1993, the Heritage Classic Foundation has awarded about $300,000 to the clinic. Foundation grants have made it possible for the volunteer staff to offer such programs as women’s health, including the VIM mammogram program as well as the dental, hypertension and asthma clinics. “Heritage dollars enable us to purchase commonly-used generic drugs in and bulk and repackage them for our patients,” Maxwell added.

The Boys and Girls Club of Hilton Head Island echoes Maxwell’s appreciation. Since construction of its new facility 12 years ago, the club has depended on Heritage dollars to the tune of about $250,000 to help staff its numerous extracurricular kids’ and teens’ programs. “These contributions basically allow me to effectively meet the needs of community families in need,” said Joyce White, unit director. “Without funding from the tournament, we could experience a terrible domino effect, losing valuable staff members and even worse, the families.”

According to Angela McSwain, Heritage tournament marketing director, as the number of local non-profit agencies has grown, the foundation has stepped up with alternative funding vehicles. “The PGA Tour Birdies for Charity program encourages giving while charity group supporters follow players during The Heritage,” she said. “Supporters pledge a small amount for each birdie made during the tournament, and that can add up, considering there were 1,454 birdies during last year’s tournament.”

The Heritage Classic Foundation contributes an additional $100,000 among charities participating in the Birdies program. The program celebrated its 11th year in 2010 by generating $409,159 for local non-profit groups, increasing total Birdie dollars to roughly $2.8 million since the program launched in 2000.

Lindy Russell, president and director of the non-profit organization Hilton Head Heroes, says Birdies for Charity has given her mission its wings. HHH offers wish-come-true vacations and island experiences to victims of cancer and other life threatening diseases. Three years ago, organizers were in desperate need of a “Hero House,” where they could provide lodging for young visitors with special needs, like wheelchair access.

“It was the money we raised through Birdies for Charity, in addition to grants from the Heritage Classic Foundation, that allowed us to purchase a wonderful resort home just minutes from Harbour Town,” Russell said. “Since then, we’ve been able to host at least 50 young heroes and their families annually; and thanks again to The Heritage, we make improvements to our Hero House every year.”

Memory Matters Executive Director Edwina Hoyle offers a different type of haven—a brand new home away from home for victims of dementia. She’s quick to sing the praises of the Birdies campaign and ongoing contributions from the Heritage Classic Foundation. “During these tough economic times, I need The Heritage dollars more than ever since the resources I normally count on have dried up,” she said.

With just four-and-a-half staff members and heavy volunteer assistance, Hoyle’s annual budget is lean. In 2007, Memory Matters raised an all-time high of $45,983 via Birdies pledges to help fund operating expenses and daycare scholarships. Volunteers will aim high again this spring.

The April tournament’s more traditional fundraising opportunities, nine strategically located concession stands, have translated into earning power for area schools, the Island Rec Center, Rotary and Lions Clubs and the local Firefighters’ Association. Island Rec Center Executive Director Frank Soule manages a concession stand plus the event’s commissary. “It’s a commitment that gives back at least $38,000 annually to our daycare and after-school care scholarships [for families like the Stinosas],” he said.

Concessions volunteer Randy Lindstrom lists the charities the Firefighters’ Association has aided with Heritage dollars. “We support the Boys and Girls Clubs, Second Helpings and the Benevolence Fund, to name a few,” he said. “This year we tried to give our 2010 earnings (about $25K) back to the Heritage Classic Foundation, but of course they wouldn’t take it.”

Even though contributions from the Heritage Classic Foundation have slowed for the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina due to the economic downturn and title sponsor concerns, President and CEO Kathleen Bateson is hoping to give back, too, as she plans her own tournament discount promotion. Bateson is quick to applaud the major role the Foundation played in the Arts Center’s Capital Campaign which launched in 1986.

“Deke DeLoach, John Curry and Joe Fraser were visionaries who recognized the value of tourism for our community,” she said. “Initially they contributed $300,000 toward the new building.” In the years that followed there were numerous grants and the Arts Center’s educational programs flourished with an annual gift of $15,000 from the Heritage.

Bateson is ready to make her offer. “We’ll provide a $10 discount to patrons who show their Heritage badge, volunteer or paid, to the Arts Center box office at the May 1 production of Hairspray, the weekend after the tournament.”

Ever-determined to keep the community impact of The Heritage on track, tournament director Steve Wilmot responded. “Before you publish that promotion, check with us to confirm our logo hasn’t changed.”

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THE HERITAGE TOURNAMENT TEAM: Prepping For The Pros

When The Heritage moves into final countdown mode each April, the team of people who make it all happen on the Harbour Town Links put their personal lives on hold. What exactly does it take to produce the annual PGA TOUR event? More than meets the eye.

CH2 took a quantitative approach to sizing up highlights of the Tournament Team’s full-time-plus commitment:

Exactly how much overtime?
No days off from March 21 – April 29; team works 80-100 hour weeks during that time…you do the math.

Duration of double-wide duty?
About 16 days. TD, sales and marketing directors, operations crew, interns et al relocate their offices to on site trailer headquarters in Harbour Town beginning April 9.

Rounds of proofing promotional stuff?
For example, marketing staff creates and proofs at least 1000 signs to be placed on the golf course and around Sea Pines Resort.

Updates to Heritage web site?
More than staff can count.

Volume of tickets processed?
Staff manually fulfills each individual ticket order (yes, thousands of them), stuffing envelopes, printing labels and affixing postage.

Size of volunteer force?
900 volunteers require uniforms, credentials and directions at a dozen informational meetings.

Size of tournament staff?
Additions wanted.

Estimated guest reservations?
165 rooms, villas and houses are booked for players, media and VIPs.

BMW Courtesy Cars shuttled to and from island?
150 vehicles, various models and colors, arrive and depart via three group trips and numerous volunteer drivers.

Miles navigating tournament via golf cart?
1,673,205.

Meals on the run?
All of them are, but ordering in often helps.

PGA uniform changes?
At least four, featuring matching color-coordinated attire for both male and female staff.

Media interviews?
Hundreds, we hope.

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