October 12, 2008

Give till it hurts...

Its no secret that golf and charity go together like bacon and eggs, ham and cheese and Abbot and Costello. PGA Tour charities have received close to a billion dollars and even here in Vietnam, the golf community has made great strides to continue this tradition.

Swing For Life has amassed over half a million dollars for the Red Cross and local charities since its inception nine years ago. The Gannon Vietnam Open Championship raises funds for Orbis International to help restore people’s eyesight and Le Van Kiem’s tournament at Long Thanh Golf Club raised an amazing amount of money for charity as well.

But even before these events, members of the Vietnamese golf community always found ways to help those less fortunate.

Every time Le Xuan Phuong, aka "Tiger Phuong" makes a Hole-in-One, he donates the cash award to children’s hospitals each time and he has five or six to date. Maybe his generosity explains his amazing streak of good fortune.

Ya gotta give to get, as it were.

Personally, I donate ten per cent of my annual salary to charity each year. Yeah, I know, I should find a new religion, but I’m happy the way things are so I will continue to help the less fortunate.

Luu Thi Ngoc Lan made a Hole-in-One during the aforementioned charity tournament at Long Thanh Golf Club. The prize was a condominium and a Mercedes Benz automobile. Not too shabby.

However, Lan always wanted to honour her mother who was a highly regarded teacher in her home village, so she decided to use the condominium money to build a school instead. A perfect example of remembering the past while living in the present.

Having just returned from the opening ceremony of the school, I gotta tell ya, it was a good thing she did. All the kids and their parents were thrilled with the new building and the amenities inside. Yes, I got on the hook by volunteering to sponsor some stuff as well, but what the heck…its for a good cause.

Other clubs have held charity events in the past, but unfortunately once in a while someone will get some larcenous thoughts and not all the money raised will go where it is supposed to. When this happens, the sponsors lose faith in these kids of tournaments and it hurts everyone. Fortunately, this seldom happens anymore because organisers and sponsors now demand strict oversight, which is sad, but understandable given the state of the world nowadays.

When raising money for charity, its hard to go wrong when it comes to sponsoring schools, clinics and hospitals for the poor and needy. These people need every possible break you can give them and you know it’s always highly appreciated.

Smart sponsors understand that while they will not make a profit, they will earn a lot of goodwill and favourable media coverage which could result in more sales in the future. If worse comes to worse, at least they helped a worthy cause.

When I was growing up, our club had some charities which the members sort of "adopted" and raised money for every year. A few of the bigger ones included the "Jimmy Fund" which is a charity based in Boston, Massachusetts, that supports children’s cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. We also had a caddie scholarship fund to help a worthy caddie afford college tuition, and yet another charity fund to support injured fire-fighters.

There is no reason why the clubs in Vietnam cannot adopt a "pet" charities of their own and dedicate their fund-raising activities to them during the year. At the Club Championship dinner, the total collected funds can be handed over to the charity representative.

Nothing says charity has to happen only once a year.

Personally, I’d recommend each club try to fund a school or health clinic. Sure, if they tried to do it with one tournament, they’d fall short of the goal, but if they collected funds in various ways over the year, it could easily be done.

You don’t always have to erect buildings, sometimes these facilities just need some new equipment or supplies. Children always need help with affordable schoolbooks.

Remember, "noblesse oblige" means that with wealth, power and prestige come responsibilities.

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