Under the leadership of former Michigan football players Brian Griese and Steve Hutchinson, the Champions for Children’s Hearts Celebrity Golf Tournament enjoyed a very successful third year on Sunday.
The duo sought to continue the philanthropic trend initiated by former football coach Gary Moeller in 1990. Moeller would take his players on weekly visits to Mott’s Children’s Hospital to brighten the lives of sick children through the From the Heart Program.
Originally slated as a gala event and a reunion for members of the 1997 National Championship football team, the event has expanded to become one of the football program’s largest fundraisers and includes members of the 1997 team as well as current NFL players and past Michigan greats.
The annual event includes a kick-off dinner gala at Crisler Arena which served 500 guests, followed by the golf tournament the next day.
In its first two years, the golf outing and gala event raised more than $650,000.
After the event’s first two impressive years, Griese was thrilled to see this year’s event continue its successful run with an expanded guest list of former athletes and over $120,000 raised at the gala alone. By the end of the golf tournament, the donations totaled $650,000.
“Part of being a Michigan man is doing community service and giving back,” Griese said. “And Mott Hospital is a great way to do it. … It means a lot to (Hutchinson and I) because it was a part of our experience as student athletes.”
In addition to support from former and current Michigan athletes and coaches, the fundraiser has had continuing support from sponsors Lexus of Ann Arbor and Delta Airlines, which have both continued to aid Griese and Hutchinson in the execution of such a large fundraising venture.
Much of the fundraising at the event will go toward the construction of the new Mott Hospital, which is expected to cost an estimated $523 million and is scheduled to open in 2011. The rest of the fundraising will go toward the Michigan Congenital Heart Center and the Samara Mendu Fellowship Fund for pediatric cardiology and pediatric cardiac surgery.
Niether Griese nor former Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson were surprised that contributors made this year’s event the most successful of all, despite the recent downturn in the economy.
“To raise so much money with what’s going on right now is amazing,” Woodson said. “What that tells you is that this cause is important. When you can help someone out who’s hurting, especially a child, I think most people would give their last dime for something like that.”
Woodson’s contribution to this year’s event inspired Griese and Hutchinson to invite him to become the third leg of the fundraising event next year— something Woodson said was “just duty calling.”
“When Brian asked me, I had no hesitation,” Woodson said. “Whether it’s doctors, aspiring doctors or researchers, it’s important that they have whatever they need to facilitate to patients. Those patients need all the care in the world, and what the doctors need is funding.
“It’s important for us to be involved and get this money raised so maybe sometime in the future we find that cure.”
During the tenure of former football coach Lloyd Carr, the athletic department began to increase its role in fundraising ventures, and current coach Rich Rodriguez, who was a coach at West Virginia University at the time, took notice.
So when he came to the University, Rodriguez felt that continuing the overwhelming support for fundraising, especially for Mott hospital, was an important part of his student-athletes’ experience at Michigan.
“In our profession, I think it’s part of your job, but I don’t think that’s the reason you do it,” Rodriguez said. “You want to give back to the community and the people who mean so much to our area … and I don’t know if there’s a better cause you can contribute to.”