Rosedale’s Deb Kehoe and Kathi Skelton always made a point to attend Rosedale Golf and Country Club’s Military Ball each year with their husbands, Jim Kehoe and John Skelton, both military veterans.
But as the 2013 event approached, they thought to themselves: “This is great, but we should be doing more.”
After a series of phone calls and meetings, the women built a house-shaped collection box for Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit that builds homes free of charge for severely wounded veterans, in Rosedale Golf and County Club golf shop.
In three weeks, they collected $4,000.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Alex Dillman, recipient of the donation, attended the ball that year. The moment Kehoe watched him lift himself, with arms as thin as guardrail posts, from his wheelchair to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, she found her calling.
“It took all his strength. He was not going to sit for the Pledge of Allegiance,” Kehoe said. “That’s where the passion began.
“We were encouraged,” she said of the initial fundraising effort. “We wanted to see what we can do.”
Since then, she and Skelton have become a force for the organization.
Their first Homes for Our Troops Golf Classic in 2014 had 100 golfers and raised $12,000. Every year since has generated more as the women adopt best-practices from other high-earning tournaments. They’ve created an advertising booklet and various sponsorship opportunities.
Since the 2014 tournament, the golf classic has garnered $83,000 collectively, including $43,000 last year. This year’s event, slated for April 3, is on track to raise more than $60,000, bringing the total to more than $140,000 in just four years.
“Once people learn what our mission is, they’re on board —once people see and experience it and meet these young men,” Skelton said.
Chris Mitchell, director of corporate and community engagement for Homes for Our Troops, said the organization receives donations from about 600 independent volunteer-led fundraisers each year. Of them, the Rosedale golf tournament now is No. 8 on the list of Top 10 fundraising events. The highest is usually in the $100,000 range. Average events raise anywhere from $500 to $5,000, Mitchell said.
“It’s a joy to watch this grow,” said Mitchell, who attended last year’s golf classic. “These ladies work it like it’s their job year round. It’s really great for our veterans they are supporting. They try to get out to their build events. They’ve built personal connections with a lot of our veterans.
“It’s a fundraisers dream to have people like Kathi and Deb, who are passionate about our mission and want to help our veterans.”
Funds from this year’s golf tournament will benefit a home to be constructed for U.S. Army Fire Support Sgt. Carl Moore III, who is partially paralyzed from a spinal cord injury.
Skelton and Kehoe have gotten to know Moore personally, as they have done with the other veterans their fundraiser has benefited by attending home ground-breaking ceremonies, volunteering for construction days, and attending “key” ceremonies when the veterans receive their home.