Fundraising event adds up to benefit cancer victims

Four years ago, in the aftermath of the death of her mother-in-law from cancer, Renea Louie heard that a prominent community member had also died from cancer and a spark of an idea came to her.

The idea - to create the annual golf tournament, the Sharkey Begovich Swing For a Cure that benefits the Carson Tahoe Cancer Center - has since become even more than Louie originally hoped for.

"A little sparkling idea can happen if you work hard," said Louie. "Two years ago we had a problem over registration. We expanded to two golf tournaments and we're still sold out."

The tournament that took place on May 13 so far has brought in $42,400. The event has become what Louie called an "extreme charity," with 18 mini events within the main events, the golf tournaments.

The one event that has yet to be totaled is a raffle for a Polaris Ranger 4X4 valued at $13,100, donated by Michael's Cycle Works of Carson City. The raffle will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lampe Park in Gardnerville in the midst of the Carson Valley Days celebration. The Ranger is on display at Carson Valley Inn until Friday and will also be driven in the Carson Valley Days Parade that begins at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Tickets are $10 each, and only 2,000 are available. Tickets can be purchased at the following locations: Michael's Cycle Works, Carson City; Sharkey's Casino, Gardnerville; Carson Valley Golf Course, Gardnerville; Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center Gift Shop, Carson City; and Carson Valley Inn, Minden.

"We are happy to support the very honorable cause of the Carson Tahoe Cancer Center," said Robbie Burgess, owner of Michael's Cycle Works. "The cancer center will be such a benefit to this community ."

The Carson Tahoe Cancer Center, currently under construction and scheduled to be open in the fall, will be the only free-standing, accredited cancer center in Nevada and will house all cancer services under one roof. It is located on the Carson Tahoe Medical Campus at 1535 Medical Parkway.

"The Carson Tahoe Cancer Center is being funded entirely through donations," said Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare Foundation Executive Director Pam Graber. "The generosity displayed by companies like Michael's Cycle Works helps make important projects like the Carson Tahoe Cancer Center a reality."

The board of directors for Swing For a Cure consists of members of the hospital, of the Carson Valley Golf Course where the tournament is held and community members.

"Several years ago my mother-in-law died of cancer and it affected me so much," said Louie. "In August 2002, Sharkey died and it affected the whole community. I don't think there's anyone here on the golf course who hasn't been affected by cancer in some way."

Louie said the first thing she did was contact the owners of the Carson Valley Golf Course, Tom and Manya Brooks. The tournament has taken off since it first began in 2003. Board members made a commitment to raise $125,000 in the first five years, and in four years they've raised $167,000. They had 136 sponsors this year.

"So, we've greatly exceeded our goals," said Louie. "We're going to continue going. We've made another five-year commitment for another $125,000.

"It's an incredible partnership we've created here. We work very hard all year long. (The volunteers) have a lot of fun, but they know why they're there."

Tom Brooks has been in the golf business for 26-27 years and four years ago just after he took over the family-owned Gardnerville golf course he wanted to do something for the community, then Louie called him.

"We found Renea Louie, the Carson Tahoe Cancer Center and the Begovich family," said Brooks. "We do things I've never seen before."

Some of the unique fundraisers included in the event that have evolved over the four years are a poker table provided by Sharkey's Casino set up on the 10th tee, sponsors' logos painted on the golf course each year by the same painter, Dirk Wunderlich, who has moved out of the area, photographers donating their time and equipment to take photos of each foursome to sell at the end of the tournament and a game of "Survival Golf" in which you can purchase penalties or rewards for the other team.

"You can tell the other team they all have to drive with their putters," said Brooks. "Each year it's different. It's always changing and fresh and new things are happening. It's a wild circus on that day, and it's fun."

On a serious note, Brooks added, "It's a real thing. Something we feel passionate about. Most of us have a connection somewhere with someone who's had cancer."


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