The Howie Meeker Special Olympics Golf Classic is teeing off for the 30th year, and “golly gee willikers,” that’s a long time.
The event happens at Storey Creek Golf Club on Aug. 18 as a major fundraiser for Campbell River Special Olympics – the first local chapter started on Vancouver Island.
“The last few years we’ve had really good response from our community,” said Special Olympics coordinator Maureen Hunter.
Along with lending his name to the event, hockey and broadcasting legend Howie Meeker has been an active participant at the tournament. In 2016, he was inducted into the Special Olympics BC Hall of Fame for his more than 40 years of support for events like the golf tournament.
In the Campbell River area, Special Olympics represents about 130 athletes who take part in 16 sports. As well, there are 65 registered volunteers and coaches, so the tournament helps with travel costs for events in B.C. and regular programming.
“This keeps our athletes in programs all year long,” said Terri Cranton, tournament organizer, who estimates last year’s event brought in about $45,000.
Some of the athletes even go to some bigger events, with five attending the recent Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Antigonish, N.S., along with three local coaches.
Cranton first got involved in order to get her son Tye involved in Special Olympics. He joined almost six years ago and competes at powerlifting. He’s also served as a caddie at the golf tournament.
The tournament usually gets 160 golfers in 98 carts, including 26 extra ones they bring to Storey Creek for the event, and each cart has an athlete from Special Olympics riding along.
“It’s gotten very big in the last three years … three or four years. We’ve managed to get some really good sponsorship,” said Cranton. “It’s amazing. We have the largest tournament out at Storey Creek.”
The golf tournament is a 18-hole scramble format. It begins at 10 a.m. with a shotgun start, with a banquet dinner and entertainment to follow the golfing. There are team and individual prizes awarded. They also include games within the game at different holes, a car giveaway for a hole-in-one and a silent auction.
“We have lots of different things going on,” Cranton said. “It’s very social throughout the day.”
There is a team of volunteers, Cranton says, who take on specific tasks to make sure the golf tournament is a success. Including the athletes who help out, there are roughly 100 people volunteering for the event, so Cranton’s job is to make sure everything run smoothly.
“It’s a well-oiled machine,” she said. “Everybody does their job.”
Registration tends to fill up quickly, and she is encouraging people not to leave it to the last minute.
“Last year, we were full … by the end of July,” she said.
As of the end of last week, there were 31 teams signed up, with three team spots and three single spots left. For more information, see www.howiemeekergolf.com/