Mile High Golf Trail Fore Pack sponsors ceremony at The Golf Club at Bear Dance
Photographs, Videos and Story By Kim D. McHugh
On July 18, more than 100 amateur golfers and PGA Professionals came to The Golf Club at Bear Dance in Larkspur to play in the largest fundraising event of the year for the 501 (c)(3) foundation of the Colorado PGA—the Colorado PGA REACH Invitational.
PGA REACH supports programs that correspond with the organization’s three key pillars: Youth Development, Diversity and Inclusion and Military Personnel Support. The latter was the focus of Wednesday’s tournament.
That morning SPC E4 Darnell Harrison (U.S. Army-Ret.) was honored, with Colorado PGA Executive Director Eddie Ainsworth, Sgt. Major David Dougherty, a volunteer for the Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation, and members of the Wings of Blue parachuting team all acknowledging Harrison’s service.
Based at the U.S.A.F. Academy in Colorado Springs, the six-member jump team wowed the crowd with an aerial “drop in,” floating on to the driving range with the lead skydiver waving red, white and blue streamers, while his teammates displayed flags respectively representing the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Harrison was then presented with the keys to a mortgage-free, move-in ready, three-bedroom home in Tucson, where he’ll live with his fiancée and U.S.M.C. veteran, Brittany Berry, and their infant daughter, Memory.
“I first learned about it over the phone,” says Harrison. “I was so excited I wanted to scream. I have PTSD and I tend to worry a lot, so when they told us we were being given a house, that was a big weight off my shoulders.”
Involved with the key presentation were Stuart Bruening and Dan Bennett, co-owners of Southwest Greens, the tournament’s chief sponsor and Bear Dance Golf Club’s operating company. Proceeds donated from the purchase of the Mile High Golf Trail Fore Pack helps fund the program. Fore Pack holders can tee up at Bear Dance, Colorado National, Riverdale and Plum Creek.
Harrison, whose grandfather served in the U.S. Navy, whose uncle was in the U.S. Air Force, and is the son of parents that served in the U.S. Army, enlisted in 2010. The combat infantry machine gunner was injured in Afghanistan in 2012 when his unit came under attack from RPG, PKM machine guns, AK-47 and 82mm shelling by enemy fighters.
A survivor of 41 firefights, the soft-spoken veteran was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the NATO Medal and the Purple Heart. To say he appreciates the CPGA REACH and Mile High Golf Trail program is an understatement.
“The organization is always willing to help out with a mortgage-free house or a car,” adds Harrison. “I know two other purple heart soldiers that are my battle buddies and I’m going to let them know. The house is definitely a life changer for me. I’m very grateful.”
Over the last seven years, the Military Warriors Support Foundation has awarded nearly 800 mortgage-free homes to combat-wounded veterans and Gold Star spouses of heroes who have fallen in combat. In addition to the home, each family receives three years of family and financial mentoring so that they may learn the skills necessary to become successful homeowners.
“Colorado PGA REACH provides this program at no cost to our veterans to help make a positive difference in their lives,” says Ainsworth. “It is such an honor for us to be able to support our combat wounded heroes in such a tangible way.”
The home giveaway and accompanying tournament at Bear Dance capped a busy month for Colorado PGA REACH.
On June 25, the Monday before the week of the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor, the foundation gave away another mortgage-free home to a combat-wounded veteran. The beneficiaries were Elba and Ricky Baxter.
Also during the 2018 U.S. Senior Open, on June 27th, the Colorado PGA REACH Foundation sponsored the Inaugural Women’s Leadership Summit entitled “Inspiring Greatness” ~ Elevating Exceptional Women. Sage Stevens, who plans to begin pursuing her degree in medicine at Montana State University in the fall, accepted a $2,500 College Scholarship.
The Foundation hosted PGA Tour Veteran and Winner of the 2018 U.S. Senior Open David Toms at Fort Carson for a clinic and social hour with our soldiers.
The Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado Youth Experience at the U.S. Senior Open hosted nearly 4,000 kids under the age of 17 on the first hole of West Course at The Broadmoor during the U.S. Senior Open (June 25-July 1). After hitting from one of the 20 stations on the Birdie Ball driving range, participants got to take home a commemorative BirdieBall with the U.S. Senior Open and JGAC logos on it. birdieball.com
Author’s note: I’ve been privileged to report on three wounded soldiers receiving a mortgage-free home. Listening to their stories of unimaginably horrific firefights, where they’ve seen fellow soldiers killed or later succumb to combat related injuries, is a reminder of the sacrifice those in uniform make on our behalf. To see these recipients overwhelmed by emotion as they’re handed the keys not only illustrates the demonstrable impact of the CPGA REACH, Mile High Golf Trail program, but also the heartfelt appreciation and gratitude of the veterans and their families.