Teeing Up for a Cause

by Gabrielle Balzell

Golfing in February? Perhaps not, but this cause is year-round.

Now in its fourth year, Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops offers area golfers a chance to polish their backswing while helping out American military veterans. But this local nonprofit, a branch of the national organization, is about much more than golf: it’s about giving back to those who have given so much to us.

Founded in 2009 by Dr. Frank Benningfield and Steve Carver, Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops (TIUFTT) is dedicated to honoring and serving the needs of military veterans of all ages and from all walks of life. Every August, the organization hosts its annual Golf Classic at the Mt. Hawley Country Club and Country Club of Peoria for a day of fun, camaraderie and remembrance.

With exclusive access to the green in the morning, military veterans are invited to share their stories while having a swingin’ good time. In the afternoon, a color guard salutes our fallen heroes and local families memorialize lost loved ones before the public is offered a chance to personally thank the servicemen and tee it up for a great cause. “It’s fun, energetic… it’s emotional,” says Carver, who was brought up in a military family and has several friends who have been wounded at war. “We do all of this for those guys that have served our country… We can’t thank them enough, and we can’t do enough for them.”

To date, Central Illinois TIUFTT has raised nearly $800,000 to benefit both national and local organizations committed to serving veterans and their families. In the Peoria area, proceeds benefit the Illinois Central College Educational Foundation, which offers the General Wayne A. Downing Scholarship to children of military members; the Bob Michel VA Outpatient Clinic, where funds provide for medical equipment, physical therapy and counseling; and Goodwill’s General Wayne A. Downing Home for Veterans, a shelter and resource center for struggling veterans. The group also donates a portion of funds to the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, Veterans Foundation of Illinois, Disabled Sports USA, Fisher House, Hope for the Warriors, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Paws for Purple Hearts, and Operation Give a Hug.

This year’s Golf Classic is set to take place on August 26th… leaving one to wonder why we’re talking about this event in the middle of February! That’s because it’s the culmination of efforts by volunteers and donors throughout the year, and Central Illinois TIUFTT is looking for help now! “We never turn a volunteer away, because I don’t think you can ever have enough,” Carver notes. “Really, what they’re out doing is just thanking those guys—all of those veterans—for what they did. But more importantly, they’re showing support for the hundreds of thousands of veterans across the country that do what they do for us.”

Whether you can lend a dollar now, hold a flag on the course or volunteer to be an official “hugger” in August, every contribution helps recognize and assist the brave men and women who defend our country. “There are people who have gone over and actually put their lives on the line for us—normal, healthy human beings—that have sat there and been in the frontline. And doing it, why? Because they want to help us have our freedom back here,” Carver adds. “That’s a cause that we need to be more thankful toward, because there are not a lot of people who would go do that.” iBi

Donations to Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops can be made at teeitupforthetroopsil.org. For more information on the national effort, visit teeitupforthetroops.org.

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