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Fort Knox golf tournament benefits Friends of Strays

By BRIAN GOFF, TBN Correspondent

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REDINGTON SHORES – Thousands of dollars were handed over to the Friends of Strays organization recently as the result of the annual Fort Knox Bar and Grill Charity Golf Tournament.

The tournament, regarded as a success by the organizers, had to compete with hurricanes this year and while the total amount of money raised was less than in recent years, nearly $16,000 was realized once all was said and done.

This year’s event was held at the Tides Golf Club on Oct. 21.

Organizer Mike Reilly, who founded the tournament seven years ago, said it was tough this year because two major sponsors pulled out, preferring instead to support relief efforts in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

“They sent $75,000 to the relief efforts,” he said. “The donation was in the form of pet food that went to Houston and Miami.”

Ron Ziebell, the owner of Mid-Western Pet Foods, the manufacturer of Earthborn Holistic Pet Foods was one of the major sponsors who had to pull out this year.

“I gave a personal donation, but all the companies that I deal with and who usually contribute declined because they were giving money to the state of Florida because of Hurricane Irma,” he said. “My company donated a truck load of pet food to Miami and Houston; a lot of focus went to the national disaster.”

That meant Reilly and his volunteers had to work harder to raise the money to make the golf tournament worthwhile.

“Some people thought we should cancel it, but we said we had to try,” he said. “I told people that we lost our major sponsors and they would have to try to attract sponsors at $100 apiece to try to make up the difference.”

They came close; in fact, the $16,000 total was about $10,000 shy of last year’s total but a tidy amount nonetheless.

The history of the tournament dates back to 2010 when Reilly bought the building that houses the Fort Knox Bar and Grille.

“I decided we needed to do something and I thought a charity event would be good for the community,” he said. “In 2011, we held our first one for Suncoast Hospice. We had 70 golfers and raised $2,500 that first year. The next year we raised $8,700 for the American Diabetes Association, then in 2013 we really got traction and raised over $15,000 for breast cancer.”

After that, and for two years in a row, the tournament raised money for Joshua House, an organization that supports abused and neglected children. In 2014, nearly $20,000 was raised and in 2015 over $25,000.

Last year Reilly said they chose Friends of Strays and raised over $24,000. Now this year another $16,000 was raised for that same organization.

When Reilly put the call out for volunteers to help raise money this year, one of those who responded was Dawn Hall. She said getting involved was something she wanted to do when she heard about it.

“I think it was because the charity was for Friends of Strays,” she said.

She decided that she would put the pictures of her two dogs along with their names on the placard that was placed at the hole she sponsored.

“The organizers thought that would be a good idea and apparently so did other people who did the same thing,” she said. “I didn’t realize my idea got more people involved or maybe I would have done it sooner.”

In fact, nine others seized her idea and, using their pet’s names and pictures, sponsored holes at $100 a pop.

Hall moved to Florida just over a year ago and found out about the tournament when she visited Fort Knox one day. It was then she decided to get involved and use her dogs, Princess and Odie.

“To support a no-kill was just perfect,” she said. “One of my dogs, Odie, is a rescue and he’s as happy as can be.

Hall says she intends to stay involved in the tournament as long as it exists.

“It is a good thing for a good cause no matter what the charity is,” she said. “I will definitely stay involved one way or another, it is all great.”

That is good news for Beth Akin, the chairperson of the event. It is her job to line up the volunteers and make the event happen. It is a job that starts months in advance.

“I started in July notifying our golfers and sponsors to let them know it was happening again,” she said. “This year we went back to the Tides Golf Club from Seminole Lakes and it was a successful move. They participated with us and we fully enjoyed it.”

Akin said local sponsor participation was positive and critical to the success of the tournament.

“We had a lot of participation from establishments up and down Gulf Boulevard,” she said. “We also had quite a bit of participation from hotels on Gulf Boulevard and even some off the beach. It was awesome.”

Akin says despite the work involved she will stay involved in the future.

“I’m positive that we will have another one next year and if they want me I’ll be glad to handle it,” she said. “I will do anything that has to be done.”

Akin is hoping that there will be another event next year but she and the others aren’t sure.

The future of the event is somewhat in question. Reilly says at this point no one knows whether or not it will go ahead next year.

“George Bachert, the owner of the bar, passed away this year. He was a committed sponsor and supporter of the tournament,” said Reilly. “However, because of his death the bar is now for sale and depending on who buys it will dictate whether we have the tournament next year. I hope it is someone that we know or who has that charitable spirit who will continue to do this, but right now it is a big unknown.”

All those thoughts were cast aside on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 8, as the group from Fort Knox Bar and Grill presented a check for $15,700 to the Friends of Strays.

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