Birdies Give Back added “fun” to fundraising at the 2020 Sanford International Presented by Cambria and it’s back for another year at this PGA Tour Champions event in 2021, which takes place Sept. 13-19 in Sioux Falls at Minnehaha Country Club.
Working in conjunction with the Sanford Health Foundation, the Birdies Give Back initiative incorporates charitable giving with the performance of the PGA touring pros playing in the tournament.
Participants have the opportunity to pledge a one-time amount or a per-birdie amount with 100% of the money directed to Sanford Children’s Hospital.
Birdies count for kids
PGA Tour Champions golfers recorded a Sanford International-record 845 birdies in the three-round tournament a year ago. With the help of enthusiastic donors, the program raised nearly $100,000 in its first year.
“It’s a great way to get involved in the tournament in a charitable way,” said Kelsey Sweeney, head of Sanford Health Foundation initiatives. “The dollars go back to help the kids at the Castle through several outstanding programs and through equipment. It’s not just all about golf.”
Prior to last year’s tournament, the foundation discussed possible ways of providing opportunities for direct contributions from golf fans and fans of Sanford charities. Ultimately, these conversations led to the Birdies Give Back program.
The effort integrated the competition of the Sanford International with its mission of giving back to the community. The proof that it was a wise step forward came in the form of the total money donated.
“To get nearly $100,000 in the first year is amazing,” Sweeney said. “The big push came from our Women’s Day when everyone had the opportunity to hear from Carrie Wieman about her son Ben, who was the Sanford International’s children’s hospital ambassador.”
Children’s hospital ambassador role
The 2021 Sanford Children’s Hospital ambassador is Cobey DeSchepper, who is headed for fourth grade with almost three years of cancer treatments now a part of his increasingly distant medical past. His mother, Allison, will tell Cobey’s story much as Carrie told Ben’s story a year ago.
“The DeScheppers will talk about Cobey’s journey at Sanford,” Sweeney said. “They’ll talk about the impact that the program has had on him, as well as the equipment and the staff that helped him get through it. Child life specialists are a huge part of a child’s journey at Sanford Children’s. Through funds from the foundation, we’re able to support their roles.”
Foundation-supported child life specialists at Sanford Children’s have been part of both Ben Wieman’s and Cobey DeSchepper’s histories. These specialists work to empower patients and their families through programs, activities and support groups. Spirited fundraising initiatives like Birdies Give Back help bolster their efforts.
“It’s a great way for golf fans who have a passion for kids to get involved,” Sweeney said. “You don’t necessarily have to know the game — you can still follow along and celebrate the birdies. Charity is a pillar of this tournament and Birdies Give Back is a way for the dollars to come directly back to the foundation. It makes for a win-win.”
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