With new twists on the course and an enduring commitment to children, the 2022 Guns ‘N’ Hoses golf tournament shattered fund-raising records and left organizers pondering ways to build on the momentum in the future.
A sold-out field of 27 teams made up of community sponsors and a host of current and retired law enforcement officers and other first-responders participated, and spectators and tournament volunteers joined them in opening their wallets for charity raffles and auctions to raise money that goes to support the One Place Child Advocacy Center. The tournament was played at Bear Trail Golf Club on May 21.
The total amount of money raised topped $21,655, with some donations still coming in. That is $5,000 more than was raised by previous annual events, completing a spectacular comeback from recent challenges related to the pandemic. Once expenses are covered, organizers expect about $15,500 will benefit the services and programs provided for children who are victims of abuse and neglect.
In a decade of play, the golf tournament and surrounding activities have now raised more than $125,000 for the Child Advocacy Center. It is a substantial number for a tournament conceived years ago by two Jacksonville Police Department officers while playing a round of golf. Those two men, Steve Moquin and Jack Cohen, were motivated by unmet community needs they regularly encountered on the job.
As Moquin has explained, the initial thought was to rotate area charities that would benefit, but the then-fledgling Child Advocacy Center served as the recipient at the first tournament and seemed to be a perfect fit for matching interests with law enforcement and other emergency services. “We realized exactly how much (the CAC does) and how little resources they had and how they spread them to the area they covered, so we thought, ‘This is our baby.’”
Now, people such as current tournament organizers JPD detective Danny Karratti and Sgt. Jason Lagana have picked up the torch and run with it. The job is a big one, and it keeps getting bigger. “It was an outstanding tournament,” Karratti said. “I would say this is probably one of the best we’ve ever had.”
While the golf draws the crowd, the cause of helping children continues to rally both sponsors and participants to make the event a growing success. “We have a great community, and One Place has great support in the community,” the detective said.
The connection between law enforcement and the Child Advocacy Center extends beyond the work that goes into raising funds through an annual charity golf tournament. The real job of helping children goes on 24-7. “We work very closely with One Place, especially the Special Victims Unit,” Karratti said.
Other law-enforcement agencies and emergency services in the county have joined the effort, as have the Kiwanis of Onslow County, which provided volunteers for the event and hot dogs to tournament participants throughout the day.
During play, tournament organizers utilized a drone for aerial views of the action on the course. Another new feature was a hole at which golfers could pay $5 to use a modified AR-15 for their tee shots. At the conclusion, the celebration of goodwill and community compassion continued with food from Kentucky Fried Chicken, as well as the other fundraisers and trophy presentations to tournament winners.
With the continued growth of the tournament and the enthusiasm for the cause, Karratti and other organizers have begun to consider expanding the field to accommodate more golfers and community participation. This year the playing spots were filled weeks before the event, generating a waiting list of prospective players. A possible solution is expanding the tournament into a full-day event, with tee times in the morning and the afternoon to allow more players.
That would require crossing some hurdles and even more volunteer effort, but when it comes to helping Onslow County’s children, the commitment has no end.
Kathleen Holbrook, Vice President of Child Advocacy at One Place, said she was elated by the turnout for this year’s event, noting that the tournament’s long run of success has provided additional funding for a growing need of support services for abused children year after year, and it shows no signs of slowing.
The highly specialized services from the CAC are provided without charge to children and their families, but they are not without cost. “The service now costs $1.2 million per year to provide with several grants funding much of it and donations for the rest,” she said. “The grants are reimbursement-based, meaning the needs and services occur before the money is paid back to the center, sometimes several months after the fact. Grant funding has also become less reliable than in years past, making donations such as Guns ‘N’ Hoses invaluable.”
Holbrook reiterated her gratitude to organizers Karratti and Lagana for their efforts. “It is a labor of love and takes hundreds of personal hours,” she said. “We are thrilled beyond measure that they honor the children of Onslow County in this manner. We are all on the same team to protect and serve our youngest citizens and this is proof of the incredible collaboration that occurs each day in our community.”
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