In 2001, The Legacy Invitational was founded by Rolf Benirschke and a group of close friends. This special group shared a vision to create an event that brought together colleagues and community leaders, a passion for golf, a desire to build enduring relationships based on trust & respect, and the aspiration of making a difference in the community of San Diego. It was the vision of the inaugural Legacy committee to limit the field to 100 personally invited golfers that had a handicap of 15 or better. The focus of the event was to combine the building of relationship with raising money for selected charitable causes.
Because of Rolf's well-chronicled illness, and including committee member Dick Helmstetter and a few others, the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America is an annual recipient of The Legacy's charitable contributions. The Legacy has committed to donating $100,000 each year to help CCFA with grants for research, studies and the CCFA "Camps Across America" which help children cope with growing up with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis (more commonly known as IBD).
A second charity, based on a recommendation by a committee member and / or a player, also receives significant contributions each year. Rolf's life has been touched by Cerebral Palsy, as his daughter Kari has dealt with this disability since her premature birth. United Cerebral Palsy has received $100,000 in donations that have helped fund research and programs designed to improve the quality of life of persons with cerebral palsy and related developmental disorders.
When Fred Mort, who was a close friend of the tournament and active participant, passed away from diabetes at the age of 41, the overwhelming response from the players allowed The Legacy to endow the Fred Mort Legacy Chair in perpetuity at the Whittier Institute for Diabetes. A total donation of $395,000 also helped to fund the purchase of a bus that allows the institute to mobilize the fight against diabetes and take it to underserved areas of the San Diego community.
In 2004, The Legacy has selected Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) as the second benefactor to share in the proceeds raised from the event. Spinal Muscular Atrophy is the #1 genetic killer of children under the age of two. It is a group of inherited and often fatal diseases that destroy the nerves controlling voluntary muscle movement such as crawling, walking or standing. One in 6,000 babies born with SMA and one in 40 people carry the gene that causes SMA. Committee member Dan Wimsatt's nine-year old nephew, Michael Wimsatt, was diagnosed with SMA when he was just 15 months old and may very well live his life in a wheelchair. Participation in The Legacy will help to further research efforts currently being carried out by over 350 scientists around the world.
In 2005, ALS, or better know as Lou Gehrig's disease, was brought to the attention of the Legacy Board because board member Tim Oitzman's mother-in-law was in the final stages in her fight against this disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord resulting in muscle weakness and atrophy. Also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the disease strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time.
For 2006, the fight against Autism was the focus of the Legacy Committee. Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 166 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.
Founding Legacy member Dick Helmstetter and friend of the Legacy George Beebe's battle with Lymphoma were the reason the Lymphoma Research Foundation was our 2007 beneficiary. The Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) is the nation's largest lymphoma-focused voluntary health organization devoted exclusively to funding lymphoma research and providing patients and health care professionals with critical information on the disease. LRF's mission is to eradicate lymphoma and serve those touched by this disease.
Our 2008 beneficiary was the Alzheimer's Association of San Diego. This charity had a special connection to our group as a number of Legacy family members have had their lives touched by Alzheimer's. As many as 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. Alzheimer’s gets worse over time, and it is fatal. Today it is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Our 2008 donation helped the Alzheimer's Association of San Diego provide care and support services for those suffering from Alzheimer's as well as to assist with a number of research projects through the Association's efforts. Our event this year and our mission to help in the fight against Alzheimer's drew the participation of Coach Frank Broyles, ABC Sports commentator Keith Jackson and CBS Sports anchor Jim Nantz. Each of these gentlemen have seen loved ones battle Alzheimer's and we are extremely grateful for their assistance in 2008.
In addition to the above charities, the Legacy Board has committed to donate $50,000 each year to fund the activities and operations of the Pro Kids Golf Foundation, a group dedicated to providing young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop, through golf and character education, life-enhancing values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship. The intent is to offer opportunities for improvement in the quality of life and create a platform where children can increase their potential for success.
The Legacy was pleased to continue supporting the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America and Pro Kids Golf in 2009. In addition, we were moved to help the Prostate Cancer Foundation as we learned that many of our Legacy family had been affected by Prostate Cancer. Over ten of our Legacy participants came forward to share stories of how they or a loved one had battled this disease. A particularly touching story came from Legacy Executive Committee member Ernie Hahn, who's grandfather, Ernest Hahn, one of San Diego's most innovative developers, passed away from the disease at 73. Former San Diego Chargers head football coach, Marry Schottenheimer and professional golfer Jim Colbert also shared their Prostate Cancer stories with the Legacy group.
The Prostate Cancer Foundation was able to provide a matching grant to the Legacy's donation, doubling our gift of $130,000 to a grand total of $260,000
2010 was a very special year for the Legacy as it marked our 10th Anniversary. It was humbling to think that our Legacy Family has helped so many different charities in San Diego over the years and that through the generosity of our participants we've been able to raise over $3.2 million dollars for deserving beneficiaries in our community.
Our 10th Anniversary theme was, "Friends Helping Friends in San Diego," and this year that sentiment was very evident. In addition to Crohn's & Colitis and Pro Kids Golf, the Legacy Executive Committee chose two charities this year to help, both with close ties to the Legacy. Long time Legacy friend and supporter Jerry Davee was injured and burned in a plane crash years ago, and since has helped the Burn Institute of San Diego in many fund raising and management initiatives, currently serving as Chairman. Jerry asked the Legacy Executive Committee to consider helping the Burn Institute and an orientation meeting was held. The Executive Committee was overwhelmed with the reach and scope of the many people the Burn Institute were able to help in our community, from young kids suffering injuries from liquid or chemical burns to those injured in the tragic fires that recently swept through the San Diego area.
For the first time a fourth beneficiary was added in 2010 when the needs of the HeadNorth Foundation was brought to the Executive Committee. HeadNorth was founded by San Diegan Eric Northbrook after a debilitating accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Not one to not take action, Eric's HeadNorth Foundation was soon formed and has helped numerous San Diego residents recover and adapt to spinal chord injuries. The Legacy Family was especially touched and moved to help Eric as he had recently suffered a second major loss, the death of his wife to cancer a month prior to the Legacy.
All in, the Legacy raised $515,000 in 2010 the help these deserving organizations. The Sunday dinner held two special surprises for the Legacy guests, a special 10th Anniversary historical video narrated by CBS Sports and "Voice of the Masters," Jim Nantz. Also, thanks to Legacy Executive Committee member Hal Jacobs, over one hundred number 6 San Diego Chargers Rolf Benirschke jerseys were distributed to the guests as a special tribute to Rolf for all he has done for the Legacy and the community over the years.
When long time Legacy supporters Tammy and Larry Hershfield started Computers 2 San Diego Kids in their garage, little did they know the growth of the organization and the number of kids they would impact here in San Diego. C2SDK was founded in 2004, and in seven short years has held thousands of under served children in San Diego receive computers to assist them with school work and their studies. Additionally, C2SDK has a program to support military families with deployed parents that provides computers and internet access for online video chat to help the families keep in touch.
Keeping with tradition, the Legacy was also able to gift $100,000 to the CCFA and $50,000 to Pro Kids Golf, along with the $100,000 to C2SDK.
The Legacy’s 2012 beneficiary was the Challenged Athletes Foundation. CAF has been a long time centerpiece of philanthropy in San Diego, especially with the work they have done for wounded military personnel. Established in 1997, the Challenged Athletes Foundation recognizes the athletic greatness inherent in all people with physical challenges and supports their athletic endeavors by providing unparalleled sports opportunities that lead to success in sports — and in life. The Legacy earmarked one CAF program in particular to support in 2012, Operation Rebound. This program is the premier sports and fitness program for American military personnel, veterans and first responders with permanent physical disabilities. It provides opportunities to pursue active, athletic lifestyles by offering access to funding for equipment, training and competition expenses, as well as Military Medical Center Physical Training (MMCPT) and numerous sports clinics for disabled athletes.
In addition, the Legacy supported CCFA and Pro Kids in 2012, and thanks to some additional donations that were received, the Legacy was also able to support three other deserving San Diego charities. The Armed Services YMCA helps the families of active duty military service personnel in southern California. Nine Girls Ask? helps spread awareness around the often unrecognized signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Advocates for Injured Athletes helps train high school athletes to recognize the signs of concussions, heat stroke and other injuries and provide assistance to these in-need athletes.
The funds raised in 2013 helped our perennial beneficiaries - the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) and Pro Kids Golf Academy. Our third beneficiary in 2013 year was the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA).
Huntington’s disease is a horrible, inherited condition that affects approximately 30,000 Americans. The children of a parent with Huntington’s disease have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the disease, and today, there is no cure. The family of Bill Johnston, PR Director for the San Diego Chargers and a very close friend to many of the Legacy family, is affected. Bill’s wife, Ramona, was diagnosed more than 12 years ago and, together with their two children, they have fought valiantly to raise awareness and funds for HDSA.
Bill has been with the Chargers since Rolf played (a long time!!) and is one of the kindest and most humble people you will ever meet. The Legacy was honored to support Bill and his efforts to raise awareness, provide educational resources, and support families caring for a loved one with Huntington’s disease here in San Diego.
Workshop for Warriors was selected as the Legacy's 2014 gift reciepant. This amazing organization not only teaches armed forces veterns specific jobs skills such as welding, machine shop operation, drafting, etc., they also help find jobs for their training program graduates. Workshop for Warriors provides our heroes with industry-leading training, nationally recognized portable credentials, work experience, and has an amazing 100% job placement record! What was significant about Workshop for Warriors to the Legacy Executive Committee was that the organization was founded by a veteran and his wife, who pretty much sold everything to start the program. This selfless dedication and determination strikes at the core of what the Legacy is all about and was introduced to the Legacy by long time supporters Linda and Marc Edwards.
Funding also continued for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) and Pro Kids Golf Academy in 2014 and these programs continue to flourish here in San Diego, helping so many kids in need.
The charities selected by the Legacy Executive Committee in 2015 touched many, many members of the Legacy family. Two specific behavioral issues were focused on this year, psychosis and eating disorders. These conditions have affected the Legacy family a variety of serious ways, ranging from adolescent anorexia to family member suicides. This touching evening saw a number of the Legacy group share their stories of struggling with these conditions, both live from the stage and in pre-produced videos. In addition to CCFA and Pro Kids, the funds raised this evening were used to support the CARE (Cognitive Assessment and Risk Evaluation) and Eating Disorders Center at UCSD.
The additional charity that the Legacy was able to support in 2016 was one of San Diego's stellar charities, Voices for Children. Voices for Children transforms the lives of abused, abandoned, or neglected children by providing them with trained volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs).Voices for Children believes that every child deserves a safe and permanent home and, to that end, will provide a trained CASA volunteer to every abused, abandoned, or neglected child who needs one, and advocate to improve the lives of children in the foster care system.
The 2017 beneficiary selection process by the Legacy Executive Committee resulted in the committee selecting TWO deserving additional charities. Boys to Men Mentoring Network gives teenage boys, most of whom are growing up without a father, an encouraging and supportive male role model to guide them into adulthood; and TERI Campus of Life, which is creating a new Campus to be a world-class center of excellence in the education and empowerment of individuals with development disabilities.
The 2018 beneficiary selection process by the Legacy Executive Committee again resulted in the committee selecting two deserving additional charities. Meals on Wheels San Diego County, and the Armed Forces YMCA Fisher Children’s Center. Meals on Wheels delivers high quality, nutritious meals year-round to seniors, delivered by volunteers, who also provide companionship and a watchful eye on the health and safety of the seniors they serve. The Armed Services YMCA Fisher Children’s Center at Camp Pendleton supports active duty military and their families by offering low-cost, hourly childcare for young children, giving their parents the ability to attend job interviews, medical appointments, take classes or care for family members, especially while one may be deloyed.