Patriot Golf Day began seven years ago, raising $1.3 million on the strength of thousands of generous golfers and a handful of very active clubs and sponsors.
This year the Folds of Honor Foundation has goals of the participation of 5,000 facilities and raising more then $5 million on Labor Day weekend, Aug. 30-Sept. 2. That would be up from $4.5 million and about 4,500 facilities in 2012.
"We’re getting close," said PGA professional Tony Biatta, the director of Patriot Golf Day for the Owasso-based Folds of Honor Foundation. "Right now we have about 4,750 courses and we’re in the middle of a big phone campaign. We’ve sent out 8,300 Patriot Day Golf Kits. A lot of facilities are participating.
"Our message to the facilities and the golfers is you can do whatever you want, from individual donations to a tournament to any kind of fundraiser. There’s nothing that doesn’t work."
Patriot Day fundraising accounts for just less than half of all funds raised last year by the Folds of Honor Foundation, which also operates The Patriot Cup, a large Pro-Am held at The Patriot Golf Club in Owasso, and has numerous corporate sponsors including Budweiser and Tulsa-based Quick Trip.
"That $4.5 million last year is just from the great golfers, clubs and others who participate in Patriot Day," Biatta said.
The Folds of Honor is branching out into other sports and activities in its mission to award post-secondary education scholarships to the families of servicemen and women killed or injured in the line of duty, more than 5,0000 of which have been handed out thus far.
In various stages of readiness are a Patriot Range Day, Patriot Marina Day, Patriot Bowling Day and Patriot Fishing Day. More information on all of these can be obtained at the Folds of Honor website at www.foldsofhonor.org. A list of Oklahoma courses participating in Patriot Golf Day can be found here.
"We’re going crazy, but it’s all good," Biatta said. "We’re using Patriot Golf Day as the model and going to grow all these other programs. We’re still learning, still expanding and growing, but our goal is to make raising money for these families a year-long thing."
"Everyone here is commited to what we’re doing. It all starts with Dan (Rooney, founder of the Patriot Day). He pumps us up and we try to return it."
Since its inception in 2007, more than $17 million has been raised through Patriot Golf Day events.
"Aligning ourselves with the Folds of Honor Foundation by hosting Patriot Golf Day events in tribute to those who have given so much is something we’re proud to do both as PGA Professionals and Americans," said PGA of America President Ted Bishop. "We encourage everyone to play golf at their local courses during Labor Day Weekend and support this important cause."
Throughout the holiday weekend, golfers are asked to donate at least $1 for each round of golf, while non-golfers can participate by making a donation to the foundation at its website, Foldsofhonor.Org.
"It is so rewarding to see the golf community come together in support of the children and spouses of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country," said USGA President Glen Nager. "Thanks to the selfless fundraising efforts of our USGA Members, PGA Professionals, and amateur players across the country, the game of golf is able to do our part to promote and support the mission of Folds of Honor."
For Rooney, who is also a PGA Professional and USGA member, golf is a natural fit for fundraising for the organization.
"With the continued support of PGA Professionals and golfers across the country, the Folds of Honor Foundation can continue to realize its mission of honoring the sacrifice of our nation’s military by educating their legacy," said Rooney. "For the last six years, Patriot Golf Day has provided golfers with a way to show their appreciation for America’s heroes during a holiday weekend meant to honor those who have served. Each year is a chance to raise more awareness and bring more attention to those who are most worthy of our support."
Rooney came up with the concept of Patriot Golf Day and founded the Folds of Honor Foundation in 2007, following his second of three tours of duty in Iraq. After returning from his second tour, Major Rooney witnessed a profound display of a family’s grief as they welcomed home the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin. Inspired by this tragic homecoming of a fallen American solider, Rooney started the Folds of Honor Foundation to provide support to military families in the aftermath of their tragedies.
There are more than one million dependents of fallen and wounded military service men and women from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts alone and 87 percent do not qualify for federal education assistance (as of Jan. 1, 2012). Patriot Golf Day allows the Folds of Honor Foundation to present an ongoing tribute to our brave service members by ensuring that the families of fallen and wounded warriors have hope for the right educational start to life and best future possible.