A Special Bond with the Special Olympics

by Lauren Thedieck

 Mar 22, 2019 at 12:30 PM

McConnell Golf's Footprints on the Green program unites staff and members in giving back to the community.

This past year, the warm smiles and genuine hearts of Special Olympics athletes brought McConnell Golf properties together.

Director of Tennis Operations Kyle Thortsen and The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation hosted the Wake County Special Olympics team at the tennis complex. Together, club staff and junior players led practices, games, and lessons to help Special Olympics athletes prepare for state competitions.

“We encouraged our juniors to get involved and see how rewarding it is to give back to the community,” says Thortsen. “Next year, our goal is to extend our commitment with this organization to our Sedgefield, Providence, and Asheville properties.”

Also at Wakefield, Director of Golf Adam McLaughlin hosted an invitational tournament at the nine-hole Plantation Course. It allowed athletes that did not get a chance to compete in the state championship an opportunity to play in a local tournament.

“We are humbled by their courage, contagious spirit, and eagerness to get better as individuals and teams alongside their family and their loved ones,” says Michael Thomas, club manager at Wakefield.

Over the past six years, members and staff from Treyburn CC, Wakefield, and Raleigh CC have volunteered for the Track and Field Spring Games in Raleigh. They’ve taken on roles to announce winners, organize races, and cheer on athletes throughout the games.

Nearby, Brook Valley CC welcomed all Special Olympic athletes from Greenville County to enjoy an end-of-year pool party celebration. East Carolina University Assistant Athletics Director Matt Maloney was in attendance and shared a little about the celebration with Brian Bailey of WNCT News.

“I started 21 years ago coaching these wonderful friends ... a few years later, we wanted to celebrate all the good things they do not only in the pool but also in the community,” said Maloney.

On a personal level, I have been involved with the Special Olympics in every stage of my life and am so proud of our clubs for continuing to engage with our community. I believe lending our facilities, our resources, and our time deepens our relationships with those we support and teaches us all of the power of giving.


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Thank You For Your Service

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Jun 22, 2018 at 4:47 PM

Wakefield Plantation’s We Care Golf Classic supports military families.

Now in its sixth year, the We Care Golf Classic brings together members of the military not only for a day of golf, but also to raise money for North Carolina military charities. The 2017 event distributed $80,000 to USO of NC, the Soldiers & Airmen Assistance Fund, and the Wakefield Senior Men’s Golf Association (SMGA) Scholarship Fund, which provides college funds for kids from military families. Since the first tournament in 2013, the event has raised more than $350,000.

Stephanie Nissen, Director of the Integrated Behavioral Health System at the North Carolina National Guard, shared her gratitude for all who participated. "Your donations and contributions made the 2018 Operation Christmas Cheer very successful and 18 fortunate families of the Army and Air National Guard were richly benefitted."

We Care began as a grassroots effort by Wakefield’s SMGA, a group of some 90 men who are very involved with local military outreach. When one of the SMGA member’s grandsons was deployed, the group sent care packages to his unit. They began sending packages to another unit, too; during this time, they decided to launch a new golf tournament with a focus on military outreach, and thus, We Care was born.

For the 2018 We Care tournament, the focus of the golf outing is the men and women in the NC National Guard. Each foursome will include civilians and a member of the military.

“For our military guests, this is a great day of golf, food, and fellowship,” says Michael Thomas, Wakefield’s club manager. “The joy they get out of this day is incredible. But it’s nothing compared to the sacrifices they make for us.”

In addition to spearheading the We Care event, SMGA members stay busy year-round. They volunteer as a group at a Raleigh soup kitchen. Each Thanksgiving, they donate turkeys and cook them for the community. And they work with the Special Olympics every year as well.

“They do an extraordinary amount of good stuff both on and off the course,” says Thomas. “It’s the most amazing thing. They’re an unbelievable group of gentlemen with hearts and priorities to help others. They play golf three days a week, and in their spare time, they’re volunteering. They could easily write a check, but instead they donate their own time, energy, and efforts to make things happen. Of all the things that have taken place during my 15 years at Wakefield, the creation of SMGA and all they do for our community is what I’m most proud of. It’s very rare to have such a large number of members who share the same vision and passion to give back without ever being asked. They just jump right in.”

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Looking For A Game

by Lauren Barry

 Aug 01, 2013 at 7:24 PM

In 2000, Wakefield Plantation was a new club in a new community, and newly joined members were excited about all the opportunities that were now open to them: meeting families, the creation of lifelong friends, social events only moments away… the excitement was contagious and the possibilities endless.

It only took one round of golf between members Dick Hummel, Roger Honbarrier, Butch Charlton, and John Securcher to know this was the place they wanted to be. As this foursome teed off for the first time, their journey together had just begun. What began that day as four men playing golf grew to a standing group of twelve members in just two years. Over the next few years, this group’s popularity and bond grew enough to allow them to become part of the Five County Seniors Interclub Association, and then in 2010 to how it is known today - the Wakefield Senior Men’s Golf Association (WSMGA).

Under the direction of the original founders, Dick Hummel, John Securcher, Butch Charlton, John Easton, Jim Burns, Ed Kozlowski and Bill Brumagim, this group is now comprised of more than 70 men over the age of 50 who pay a small annual fee of $50 for all of the year’s events and gatherings. Known for their “play days” as well as their participation in club and private golfing events (totaling around 2,000 rounds of golf in the last few years), the WSMGA travels regularly to McConnell Golf sister properties to create support of the club, to enjoy new experiences and to bond as friends.

They helped start Wakefield’s Senior Member-Guest, they regularly host numerous social events and they are a driving force for significant growth at the club and on the course.

One of the WSMGA’s proudest achievements that sets them apart from most associations is their mission to serve through charity within their community. Josh Points, Director of Golf at Wakefield Plantation states, “The WSMGA is a group of dynamic men that embodies all that is good in a private country club. They foster camaraderie in all that they do, support all club activities and go out of their way to give back to the local community. Wakefield Plantation is a better club because of their efforts.”

This enriching goal is accomplished with the help of WSMGA’s members, their friends and family as well as the fellow club members and staff of Wakefield Plantation through volunteer hours and donations.

Organized and supported by the club over the past 3 years, the WSMGA gives back in many ways, including but not limited to:

  • Creation of a non-profit organization under WSMGA
  • “We Care” packages and phone cards to soldiers serving in Afghanistan (over 150 packages sent in 2011 and 2012 combined)
  • WSMGA Military Scholarship Fund: academic scholarships established in the form of annual grants for deserving children of NC service personnel (to begin 2014)
  • Organizing donations to the military from club members
  • Preparing and delivering food to be served to the USO
  • Assisting with the REX Hospital Open

Currently their two primary charitable efforts include providing volunteers for the “Shepherd’s Table,” a daily operating soup kitchen in downtown Raleigh. To date, 37 of the members have volunteered with this charity and reached over 460 hours served last year alone primarily working to prepare and serve food. Jay Eggenberger and Jim Weathers lead this effort as team captains and are the organization’s cooks on the fourth Wednesday of every month. The second is the creation and implementation of the “WE CARE” First Annual Golf Classic to benefit North Carolina Military and their families, which will take place on October 1, 2013 at Wakefield Plantation. “What started two years ago as a way to provide care packages and phone cards to troops overseas and to express our appreciation and gratitude for their efforts under the founder and leader, Robert Bartholomew, has now grown in new ways,” says WSMGA’s President Dick Hummel.

“We support the SAAF (Soldiers and Airmen Assistance fund), the USO at RDU and the scholarship grants. The SAAF is our primary charity. It helps returning deployed National Guard servicemen located in NC. They are a forgotten group and get no State or Federal financial support,” says Hummel.

A retired Lt. Colonel (with Bronze & Silver Star Awards), Bartholomew is in charge of all pre-ceremony activities and all military involvement. He states his inspiration, and that of the group, came from a brave and selfless young Army 1st Lieutenant. “The simple truth is, if it were not for this gentleman the “WE CARE” programs would not exist,” states Bartholomew. This heroic serviceman (who requested to remain anonymous) was contacted about being the recipient of some packages and thoughtfully asked about the support of his platoon as well. He coordinated the logistics, set up a video conference and provided names and personal package requests for the men in his platoon to make every package mean something even greater to the men and women receiving them.

With the announcement of Footprints on the Green, this group has now further expanded its charitable efforts to volunteering with McConnell Golf ’s scheduled opportunities, such as Special Olympics, Soles 4 Souls, and Project Linus, to date.

What pleases the group’s founders the most is watching how group members rise up to help within their network. Many of the families have been successful in their personal lives and now they wish to give thanks and give back to others. “It is moving to see,” says Lauren Barry, Director of Marketing at McConnell Golf. “We are well aware of the challenges our society and environment face daily and we are so proud to have a group come together in this way: supporting one another, supporting their club and, in turn, the community in which they live.”

Through charity and camaraderie, the WSMGA and McConnell Golf are building lifelong friends and experiences not available anywhere else.  

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