Event SPOTLIGHT: Peoria Illinois

Now in its 11th year, Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops offers area golfers a day on the golf course to work on their game while helping American military veterans. But this local fundraising tournament in Peoria, IL is about much more than golf: it’s about giving back to those who have given so much to us.

Founded in 2009 by event coordinators Dr. Frank Benningfield and Steve Carver, the Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops event is now organized by Bill Kraft, Jeff Kohlbus along with an executive committee of seven members. What makes this tournament unique is the event is played on two courses approximately four miles apart and has both a morning and afternoon session.

Every August, the organization hosts its annual Golf Classic at the Mt. Hawley Country Club and Country Club of Peoria for a day of fun, camaraderie and remembrance. With exclusive access to the green in the morning, military veterans are invited to share their stories with their foursome while enjoying a round of golf. In last summer’s event, 240 military personnel, past and present, golfed in morning free with all expenses paid for by event sponsors, including the title sponsor, Zanfel Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Wash.

In the afternoon, high school JROTC teams present the colors, a soloist sings the national anthem saluting our fallen heroes, local families memorialize lost loved ones and the public is offered a chance to personally thank the servicemen and women.  Local service club members volunteer as pin holders at both the morning and afternoon sessions. During the afternoon session, another 240 players including sponsors fill up two different golf courses, Mt Hawley Country Club and the Country Club of Peoria. Despite a heat advisory, there was a great turnout and golfers took to the links for a good cause.  The evening festivities host over 700 people.

Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops saves the serious golfing for the serious tournaments and they have fun at this event! American Anthem Vodka set up tables at each course and provided samples of their products in Bloody Mary’s and screwdrivers. Local restaurants, including Buffalo Wild Wings and Qdoba set up food stations during the rounds and gave away their products. Every Par-3 on both courses had a hole in one contest featuring either cash or a car and Dixon Golf sponsored a Par-3 Contest where players could win golf balls and receive certificates worth up to $150 in products.

When asked what inspires him to continue leading this event for our military and veteran organizations, Bill Kraft answered “I continue to serve as event coordinator because I believe it is proper to honor and remember those who have served and are currently serving in our Armed Forces. I enjoy the challenges of bringing together 480 golfers in one day at two different courses and the gratitude our veterans show us for putting on this event in Peoria.”

Bill was presented with a “Patriot Award” for his years of commitment, passion and patriotism displayed in the Peoria Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops events.

“The National Office of Tee It Up for the Troops and its staff, is a tremendous resource for us and all of the affiliated events throughout the country and we would like to thank them for the support they provide,” Bill added.

Bill has been an instrumental part of the Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops tournament for 10 years. He was asked to oversee the overflow of participants at the first event in 2009 when a second course was added to accommodate the response from the community. He was offered a position on the executive committee the following year and since just keeps looking forward to offering a unique event aimed at honoring our veterans who have served our country to insure the freedoms enjoyed in the United States.

To date, Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops has raised nearly $1,000,000 to benefit both national and local organizations committed to serving veterans and their families. The 2018 event alone brought in $50,000. In the Peoria area, proceeds benefit the Goodwill’s Gen. W.A. Downing Shelter for Homeless Vets, South Side Office of Concern Veterans Haven (a second local shelter for homeless veterans) and Fuller Center of Central Illinois (dedicated to helping military veteran homeowners make repairs on their homes). The group also donates a portion of funds to the national Tee It Up for the Troops organization where Disabled Sports USA, Fisher House, Hope for the Warriors, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Warrior Canine Connection among other veteran service organizations receive proceeds.

This year’s golf classic is set to take place on August 26, 2019. For more information visit: www.teeitupforthetroopsil.org or www.teeitupforthetroops.com

Homeless Vets: Why We All Should Care!

Our Mission to Aid Veterans with Housing, Homelessness and More

Tee It Up for the Troops supports several programs for veterans who have experienced homelessness and need additional support maintaining housing including transitional and comfort housing while getting treatment. In 2018, Tee It Up for the Troops granted over a quarter of a million dollars to veteran housing organizations. Your donations to Tee It Up for the Troops are making a difference not only in Housing & Homelessness for Veterans, but also in our other targeted pillars of need including, Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Treatment of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries, Employment, Golf & Sports Rehabilitation, and Family and Caregiver Support.

In a single night in January 2018, there were nearly 38,000 veterans experiencing homelessness and staying in shelters across our nation, according to a recent Department of Housing and Urban Development report. States with the highest unsheltered veterans are California, Mississippi, Oregon, Hawaii, and Washington.  Research shows that lack of stable housing for veterans presents a significant challenge in obtaining gainful employment and eliminating the barriers and issues that are at the root of homelessness.

The Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops event (featured in this issue), allocates part of their proceeds to benefit three local veteran housing programs: General Wayne A. Downing Home for Veterans which provides permanent housing for homeless U.S. Military veterans with an honorable discharge and a diagnosed disability; South Side Office of Concern Veterans Haven, a local shelter for homeless veterans; and Fuller Center dedicated to helping military veteran homeowners make repairs on their homes.

Fisher House Foundation, which provides comfort homes throughout the U.S. where military & veterans families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital, and Warrior Foundation Freedom Station in San Diego, CA, providing transitional housing designed to assist veterans and their families during both recovery and transition processes, are both major beneficiaries of funds raised at golf events nationwide by Tee It Up for the Troops.

Freedom Station Courtyard
Tee It Up for the Troops supports Warrior Foundation Freedom Station, a unique housing complex designed to provide a training ground for warriors who are making the transition from medically retired to contributing civilian.

Warrior Foundation Freedom Station is the brainchild of Sandy Lehmkuhler, a Navy wife. While volunteering at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Sandy discovered the difficulties encountered by ill and wounded warriors, making the transition back to civilian life. In 2011, her foundation proudly opened Freedom Station, a unique housing facility and recovery support center for warriors transitioning out of the military.

There are far too many homeless who are veterans…and there’s one thing we should all agree on – you should not be a hero in the Gulf War or any other conflict and be homeless in America. When you support Tee It Up for the Troops by participating in one of our events or making a donation to veterans we serve, you are helping our ill, injured, and medically retired warriors with dignified housing support. These courageous men and women have performed selfless acts to ensure our freedom. Help us to help them by making a contribution at: www.teeitupforthetroops.org/donate-tee-troops/