ASHBURN, Va. — For the past five years, Billy Casper Golf has been building something. The World’s Largest Golf Outing has grown into a nationwide fundraising event, helping to support wounded veterans. It has tapped into a collective sense of patriotism that extends beyond just the D.C. area, raising millions.
There was just one problem — the charity partner with which WLGO teamed up with was the Wounded Warrior Project, which became mired in scandal earlier this year after reports of mismanagement of donations. But that didn’t mean the successful fundraising needed to end; it simply meant that a new charity partner was needed. And Billy Casper Golf found it in Fisher House Foundation.
For those unfamiliar with its mission, Fisher House provides accommodations for military and veterans’ families, putting them up at no cost while the service member receives treatment. Partnering in the WLGO not only helps them build more facilities, it also helps spread awareness to families who might be in need of such services.
“We’ll never be the largest charity, but we focus on being good stewards of the funds given us, and we have a chance to impact 30,000 families a year,” said Dave Coker, president of Fisher House. He was the first employee ever hired by the foundation back in 1994.
Coker says he had no prior relationship with Billy Casper when one day, his phone rang out of the blue.
“If you focus on supporting the families and focus on your mission, we believe good things are going to happen. And they just always have for us,” he said. “It didn’t take two seconds to say, ‘Oh yes.’”
After opening with 80 courses in 2011, WLGO has grown to include 130 this year, including a number in the D.C. area. On Aug. 1, thousands of golfers teamed up to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, with 1757 Golf Club in Reston, Virginia, serving as something of a hub both locally and nationally, including both Billy Casper Golf CEO and chairman Peter Hill and the Golf Channel on site.
“It’s exceeded our expectations,” said Hill of the growth of the event. “What’s surprised us is the generosity of Americans in order to help provide support for the families of the warriors and veterans who preserve and protect our freedom.”
Coker echoes the statement, and thinks the two organizations may have struck just the right chord to grow together.
“What we’ve found is, America is still a grateful nation,” said Coker. “People want to honor and support the military, they just need to be told how.”
In that regard, the WLGO intends to keep expanding and providing golfers from all over the country the chance to do exactly that, as part of the nearly $3.5 billion per year that golf as a sport raises for charity annually.
“We’re a very special sort of subset of that, and we’re really, really proud of it,” said Hill. “Our goal is onward and upward, bigger and better every year.”
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