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2019 Veterans Open: No Soldier Left Behind

Guest Author: Rob Banden

The 2019 Veterans Open took place November 7th. Derek Green and Rob Banden of St. Charles Missouri, with the support of the St. Charles County Disc Golf Club and many generous sponsors, were able to raise just above $5,300 to be donated to Welcome Home. Welcome Home is a local organization that helps transition veterans to civilian life and support those at risk of homelessness. Savage is thrilled to have been able to sponsor a great event like this. Read all about what this event meant to Rob, a veteran himself, and his hopes for next year: 

No Soldier Left Behind

For the past few years Derek Green of the St. Charles County Disc Golf Club (SCCDGC) in St. Charles, MO has been the Tournament Director of the Veterans Open tournament for local disc golfers, veterans, and the general public. 

In the past, Derek has made it a point to do something special in this tournament for veterans and active duty military. His offer can range from discounted entry for veterans to completely free play. Having been an Air Force Veteran, I played in the 2018 Veterans Open free of charge. However, while the tournament was a lot of fun, the turnout was rather low.

Months later, I approached Derek with a proposal to change the Veterans Open to a fundraiser event where all proceeds would be donated to helping veterans. In doing so, we could have a chance at a better turnout as well as an opportunity to give back to the veteran community who sacrificed so much for our country. 

As a veteran myself, I felt it necessary to ensure the proceeds were donated to a worthy cause. I began researching local non-profit organizations that assisted the veteran community. I came across the Welcome Home organization; Welcome Home supports transitioning veterans and their families, including those at risk of becoming homeless. Their mission to leave no veteran behind hit very close to home for me. There was a point in life after my service that I could have ended up in such a place if not for the help of my family. Some veterans are not as fortunate to have a strong support system like I did, so I wanted to help ensure other veterans could receive a second chance at civilian life. 

I scheduled a tour a few months later with Welcome Home and was given an informative VIP tour of their facility. I shook the hands of their welcoming volunteers, and immediately felt welcomed by everyone at this organization. It was clear to me that Welcome Home would be a worthy recipient of our donations. More information about Welcome Home can be found on their website.

Even with the draw of fundraising for such an important organization, we knew filling this tournament would be a difficult task. We decided to hold a fundraising raffle to hopefully draw higher attendance and help us raise more money to be donated. Derek and I began to reach out to the disc golf community and other companies for donations to our event. 

We were overwhelmed and elated with the amazing responses we received. After all was said and done, we collected just over $4,000 in sponsorship donations to be used for closest-to-the-pin and raffle prizes. I could not believe it. It made me incredibly proud that so many people in our community and across the country wanted to help our veterans, especially through the sport of disc golf. It meant the world to us. 

On the day of the tournament, we were incredibly fortunate to have 87 competitors show up to play, including 17 veterans or active-duty military. Some even made the trip from outside the state of Missouri. It is hard to put into words how truly wonderful the feeling was, and I caught myself standing in awe multiple times that day. Seeing the smiles, the laughs, the comradery, all of the handshakes and thanks we received — it was almost surreal. This turnout was without a doubt possible because of our generous sponsors and donations.

Another phenomenal building block of this tournament that I would like to mention is the strength of our local disc golf community and the SCCDGC. I have only been a part of the local community for a little over a year, and on the board for a few months now, but it is truly inspiring to see what this group is capable of. They stepped up massively, and with their generous monetary donations, all veterans who joined us that day were able to play for free. This event would not have been possible without the support of the disc golf community.

We would like to sincerely say thank you to all those who donated prizes, donated monetarily, and those who came to join us for the day. Our initial goal for this event was to raise $2500. Incredibly, the St. Charles disc golf community came out in full force and we were able to raise just over $5,300 to donate to Welcome Home! This means that our donation alone will cover the cost to house, feed, and help a veteran through a 90 day transition period at Welcome Home. It will hopefully give them and their families a well-deserved second chance at life. And that, to us, is priceless.

The SCCDGC plans to continue to run this tournament as a charity event every year on the weekend before Veterans Day. My personal goal is to eventually double the size of this tournament to 180 competitors next year and make it the largest of its kind. And as the years pass, I hope more sponsors will consider joining our goal of supporting our less fortunate warriors who have served our great country. Because no soldier should ever be left behind.