Fairways and Fair Causes

Jul 22, 2021 | Blog

Veterans and civilians alike gather to golf in support of aid for local Veterans

Albatrosses and birdies were flying through the skies at the annual Chief Moguago Veterans Golf Outing Friday, June 4. After missing a year due to COVID-19, serious and hobby golfers alike spent the morning and afternoon driving and putting across the greens of Binder Park Golf Course to help support local Veterans organizations.

The day’s festivities began with a performance of the National Anthem by local news reporter Jordan Carson, playing of taps, and a prayer for fallen soldiers from NHBP Chief Executive Officer Barry Skutt Jr.

NHBP Tribal Historic Preservation Officer and Veteran Doug Taylor assisted in the raising of the American flag. Members of NHBP’s Culture Department also Smudged to bless the outing, and Drummed and Sang before Veterans from American Legion Post 196 honored fallen soldiers with a 21-gun salute.

Reverence, respect and revelry were in the air.

Veterans at the forefront

A handful of the 220 putters on the course were Veterans themselves, participating each year to show support for the Tribe as well as their fellow Veterans.

“In modern times, being in the military, our enlisted officers are trained to take care of one another,” Taylor said. “That extends out now that us Veterans aren’t in service. Just because we aren’t actively serving in the military, doesn’t mean that we forget about other fellow Veterans. We are always actively serving and helping our fellow Veterans, and this golf outing is one way we do that.”

For local Veterans like Ralph Gottschalk, Harold Siler, Bob Neighy and Gary Garrison, there’s a fellowship and comradery in the event that extends beyond the plush green fairways.

“The Tribal Veterans give donations to Veterans Helping Veterans, Disabled American Veterans – any Veterans organization in southern Michigan, they give back to,” Gottschalk said. “They give back to our post and a lot of other posts. They give back to the Veteran community. Not only dollars, but if we need something, all we have to do is ask if they can get it. They help us in a lot of ways.”

The proceeds from the annual outing will be distributed to local Veterans organization  in order to assist Veterans in need. Recipients will be selected by the Ogitchedaw Society Board later this summer.

“I like the fact that the money that we raise can stay local and it can be on-demand as opposed to giving it to the likes of the Wounded Warrior Project,” said Matt Goldner, one of the event’s organizers and manager of Bkéde O Mishké. “Those are such big organizations that the amount that we’re raising is a salary for one of their employees. [The monies are] able to be used – and we can watch it be used. It stays close.”

Humble beginnings

Goldner has participated in the running of the event in some capacity for the past nine years, witnessing the growth and transformation of the outing.

What began as a small gathering to support education scholarships for Tribal Members has grown into a spectacular event, he said.

“It’s just grown and grown and grown,” Goldner said with a small chuckle and a shake of his head. “In the first few years, there was like 40 people [playing] or something like that. By the time I got involved, there were at least 100 golfers. And now we have to have a waiting list.”

Tribal Council Treasurer and Ex-Officio Board Member of the Ogitchedaw Society Board Dr. Jeff Chivis was excited to be able to get back to hosting the event in person after last year’s cancellation.

“The event has continued to grow in popularity and the amount of funds raised since 2018. We have the best sponsors,” Dr. Chivis said. “Last year, we canceled the event due to the pandemic, but several of our sponsors still chose to donate funds that were later awarded to local Veterans organizations. And this year, we once again broke our all-time record by raising over $88,000.”

Now with  dozens of sponsors, numerous  friendly volunteers from every faction of NHBP’s organizations, and over 200 participating golfers, growth is an understatement. Yet, for such a big event, the neighbors-helping-neighbors and community atmosphere is strong.

“We’ve made it a really high priority to do community outreach in general and I think the local community and local organizations want to give back because of what we do in the community,” Tribal Council Chairperson Jamie Stuck said. “They support us back. I think that’s the spirit of it as its grown.”

Participants and volunteers alike walked away with bellies full of delicious food provided on the course and after play by FireKeepers Casino Hotel, sun-kissed cheeks, some goodies and a sense of comradery and contribution to a worthy cause.

FireKeepers Casino Hotel CEO Kathy George has participated in the outing for eight years. Aside from being able to give back to the community, especially Veterans who “gave so much for us,” George said she’s glad to share a little about NHBP’s rich culture with non-Native participants.

“Listening to the Drums and hearing how important the Veterans are to us as a community – I think that all the participants walk away with that,” George said. “I think great weather and a great day of golf never hurts.”

For the full photo gallery, click here.

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