The Oro Valley Optimist Club is a small but mighty group. Its 19 members contribute hours of their time organizing its annual golf tournament, the proceeds from which go toward bettering the lives of youth in the community through a variety of local programs.
Optimists' big fund-raising event is the Scramble For Youth golf outing, this year being held on Friday, Sept. 11 at El Conquistador Country Club.
Approximately $11,000 was brought in during the 2008 event.
"If we raise $6,000-$7,000 this year, I'll be tickled pink," said Don Cox, Optimist president, who is still hoping to add more sponsors. "We go back to folks that sponsored previously," he noted. In the past, BHP Billiton has been an exclusive underwriter. Cox is still waiting on a commitment for this year.
What lacks significantly at this point is golfers.
"I'd really like to emphasize that we need players," Cox urged. As extra incentive, the 2009 entry fee has been decreased from $125 to $95 per player. In most years, about 75 percent of the foursomes are company groups and 25 percent enter as individuals. Optimist Club members from other area chapters and Kiwanis members are generally part of the mix.
Planning for the fundraiser is ongoing, but "we work in earnest about six months before," Cox stated. "That's the time it takes to get out and gather sponsors," and all members help. "We're a small group, so everyone has to be involved."
Seemingly unhurt by the economy this year is the donation of raffle and auction items, which member Joe Bourne took on as his project this year and last. "Joe almost single-handedly raises these prizes," Cox raved. "He's done an outstanding job with it."
According to Bourne, he has commitments for more than 100 items, including a safari to Krueger National Park, South Africa. The Optimists have Judy Parsons of Unique Adventures Inc., to thank for the trip, which is valued at $7,500.
Bourne, who is a vocalist and artist, began soliciting items from local businesses in June. Everyone is very generous, he claimed, and he was rarely turned down. Other prizes include restaurant certificates for Bob's Steak & Chop House, Harvest and Miguel's; a guestroom / dinner pairing at Westward Look and Look Out Bar and Grille; and a Golf Villas stay-and-play package.
"We also have hole-in-one prizes," Bourne said, including a 2009 Cadillac CTS from Don Mackey and a 2010 Lexus RX from Lexus of Tucson.
A third hole-in-one opportunity will be for a golf cart, and the 10th hole will have a longest drive competition, Cox added. The top donated items, such as the safari, the use of a Newport Beach, Calif., condominium and a week's stay in Prescott, will be included in the silent auction. Golfers have the chance to place their bids during registration and after completing play.
Remaining items will be used for the raffle prizes, which will be drawn while players are on the course and posted during the banquet. Lucky for them, the Optimists have perhaps the top raffle peddler in town. Realtor Lyra Done sold $3,000 worth last year in what she calls her contribution of "sweat equity."
"We call Lyra The Queen," Bourne quipped. "She has a very enthusiastic sales pitch. People register and pick up their package. The next thing they get hit with is Lyra."
She encourages sales by packaging raffle and mulligan tickets together, according to Cox. But, he noted, "the greatest package is seeing her standing there with her tiara on her head."
Ten youth programs will benefit from the money raised by this dedicated group. However, the primary recipient will be a new addition to the list. "This year we'll maintain a relationship with all these, but we're focused on drug education with the schools in and around Oro Valley, working closely with the Oro Valley Police. Many people in Oro Valley don't want to admit there's a drug problem," Cox said, but the Optimists believe it's real and it's a top priority.
Research shows the best time to talk to kids about drugs is before entering middle school, so the target of the program will be fifth-graders. "We'll have a drug awareness day and plan to get the mayor to declare Drug Awareness Day in Oro Valley," Cox reported. "We'll bus students to Riverfront Park for a four-hour outing with lectures, Pima County SWAT team and canine activities. It'll be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a school day, like a field trip."
Helping important youth programs is attraction enough for many to hit the El Conquistador links on September 11. But most golfers will be personally rewarded, too.
"It's difficult not to win something," Cox noted. "From the prizes you can win, I'd say this is the richest charity golf tournament in southern Arizona. And we'll take players up until five minutes before."
2009 Scramble For Youth Charity Golf
Sept. 11 - Registration 11 a.m./
shotgun start 12:30 p.m.
El Conquistador Country Club, 10555 North La Cañada Drive
Sign up online at www.orovalleyoptimistclub.org
$95 entry per person includes 18-hole best-ball play, gift bag, prizes, team photo, buffet following play; singles welcome
Mike Wilson, tournament director, 918-7467
Supported youth organizations
Oro Valley Drug Awareness Day
Pima County Youth On Their Own
Arizona School for the Deaf and the Blind
Arizona Youth Partnership
NPCCC Scholarship Fund
Valenzuela Boys & Girls Club