EVANS, Ga. (WJBF)- For those at the Bartram Trail Golf Club, it wasn’t just your average day at the golf course.
“It has been a wonderful experience, we all enjoy it. Matter of fact, people call me long before we start gearing up for the tournament to say, ‘Are we doing the tournament this year? Don’t forget me,” said organizer Jean Garniewicz.
The tournament has been sponsored by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office to raise money for Georgia Sheriffs Youth Homes.
That organization serves foster children around the state of Georgia with five locations–the nearest is the Herrington-Homestead location in Nunez, Georgia.
For Sunday’s tournament, there were 37 teams that played 18 holes, and more than 200 sponsors involved as well.
Sheriff Clay Whittle says the tournament has raised thousands of dollars in donations, and it all goes to these youth homes–and ultimately the children.
“Up until 2022, we’ve collected right at $300,000 for the youth homes,” said Whittle. “We’re trying to break the bank every year and beat the past year. We’re looking like we’re gonna exceed it by hopefully a couple thousand dollars, and right now we’re shooting for $65,000 plus.”
But this all started in 2008, and the sheriff’s niece, Grier Whitaker, convinced him to begin this annual tradition.
“It was my senior year of high school–I was at Greenbrier High School–and you had to do a senior project. So I came up with the idea with Jean Garniewicz, and we said ‘Uncle Clay you’ve gotta do this,” said Whitaker.
Since graduating from Greenbrier, Whitaker has gone on to teach in the school district, as she’s currently a teacher at Harlem Middle School.
She says as a parent, the funds couldn’t be going to a better cause.
“So as a mom, I really look at it as I know what I can provide for my child, and I really struggle when others can’t have that. So I love that our whole community comes together to pour into kids who need help in the state of Georgia,” said Whitaker.
Sheriff Whittle says holding this annual tournament not only brings the community together, but it emphasizes the importance of caring for the state’s most at-risk kids.
“That’s what this is all about, it’s about those neglected and abandoned kids that literally have nowhere else to turn. The Georgia Sheriffs do no tax money whatsoever. Strictly from raising donations like we do here, we have been able to fund those 5 campuses since 1951, and literally save hundreds and hundreds of lives,” said Whittle.
The Sheriff adds with the kids he’s served over the years, one that has stood out was a kid who became a doctor, and gives back the youth homes through medical exams and donations.
Everyone is looking forward to next year, but the need to help foster children continues.
If you want to support Georgia Sheriffs Youth Homes, you can find them by clicking here.
To find more information about the Herrington-Homestead location in Nunez, click here.