With the energy it takes to run a huge golf tournament fundraiser, people are sometimes surprised to see that Rosedale Golf and Country Club residents Deb Kehoe and Kathi Skelton are a couple of “little old ladies with white hair.”
But when you pull together the second-biggest fundraiser in the country for Homes for Our Troops, age isn’t important — not considering the bottom line.
The women, both in their 70s, said they know they have only so many years left before they need to hand over the reigns of their fundraiser, but they are dedicated to raising every dollar possible for the nation’s disabled veterans.
That effort was put on hold when the April 1 tournament at Rosedale Golf and Country Club had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Even so, said the community rallied behind the effort in a most impressive way.
Although the women offered to return funds raised for sponsorships and golf packages, nearly every participant and supporter said to keep the fees as a contribution.
Because of that, their 2020 efforts raised $161,392.42 without even having a tournament.
The women said they likely would have raised an additional $20,000 the day of the tournament, based on their experience from past years, but they have no complaints.
“We’re ecstatic given the state of affairs,” Kehoe said. “We really raised the bulk of our money before any of this [coronavirus pandemic] hit.
“The money is super,” she added. “But it’s all about raising awareness. The more we raise awareness, the more we raise money.”
If they had held the tournament, they might have moved up to No. 1 for a Homes for Our Troops fundraiser. In 2019, they finished behind a Minnesota-based fundraiser, “Teamsters Local 120 Picnic and Golf Tournament,” which raised $167,088.
Homes for Our Troops is a nonprofit that builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes for disabled veterans.
“We had a ‘friendly’ competition with [the Minnesota fundraiser committee], but when they found out last year, from the executive director of Homes for Our Troops, [Bill Ivey], that ‘two little old ladies from Florida’ were beating them, they poured on the heat and reached out countywide to their associates,” Kehoe said.
After Rosedale’s tournament raised $157,945, the Minnesota group scrounged up more money to make sure it held on to the top fundraising post.
Kehoe and Skelton were disappointed they didn’t reach No. 1 but said that are thankful they continue to fuel the Homes for Our Troops’ effort.
“We’re raising a significant amount of awareness,” Kehoe said. “Homes for Our Troops is nationwide. Maybe we can get a healthy competition going [among all the fundraising groups]. Homes for Our Troops depends on this type of grassroots effort.”
The women, with the help of their husbands, Jim Kehoe and John Skelton, work year-round on the tournament by promoting Homes for Our Troops at events and speaking to community groups.
Kehoe and Skelton said they love building relationships with the veterans they are serving; veterans regularly attend their golf outing.
This year’s recipient, Stephen Peterson, played in the tournament last year. Fundraising for the 2021 recipient, Marine Cpl. Tim Read, has begun already.
Rosedale resident Mary Willett had been helping to sew sponsorship flags for this year’s golf tournament. After that was canceled, she came up with an idea of making face masks and is selling them for $10 apiece to raise money for the cause. So far, with the help of friends, she has made about 100 masks and has raised more than $1,110.
Kehoe and Skelton are excited for the opportunity and grateful for Willett’s efforts.
They will not know Minnesota’s fundraising success for 2020 until the fall, but they are well on their way to a successful 2021 tournament. The date already has been set: March 31, at the Rosedale Golf and Country Club.