A plane load of sick or dying children are bound for Disneyland this winter thanks to a team of golfers who hit the greens at Meadow Gardens Friday afternoon.
And an Edmonton man drove away in a brand new car.
The 17th annual Sunshine Foundation golf tournament raised more than $135,000, so the sell-out event has been able to cover the cost of sending 85-95 children (including some from this community) on a one-day whirlwind trip to the Los Angeles playground on Dec. 11, through the Sunshine Foundation of Canada.
"We're going to put some smiles on some kids," said tournament founder and organizer Marc Alexander, who first conceived of the charity fundraiser while working as a traffic officer with Ridge Meadows RCMP.
That first year, the tournament raised a whopping $300 for the cause. It was also a sell-out, with the maximum allowed 144 golfers. But that day's festivities were not as elaborate, consisting only of golf, a dinner of barbecued burgers, chips, and a couple leaves of Caesar salad, said Alexander, who is now the staff sergeant in charge of the Integrated Road Safety division for Greater Vancouver.
Although his job has shifted out of the area, Alexander still calls Maple Ridge home, and has also kept the tournament local.
Through the years, the tournament has grown. A "strong committee with some very committed members" has been working since April to create this year's sponsor-driven event.
The tourney still sells out, with 144 golfers who are now lavished with food, refreshments, and a chance to win a car from West Coast Mazda - a car won when Sheldon Seefried of Edmonton, joining the tournament while visiting a friend in Maple Ridge, shot the tourney's first hole-in-one in 17 years.
Another 60 or so supporters joined the golfers for a full-course dinner inside, with entertainment, and auctions.
"This truly has become a team effort. There's no way I could do it without the team," Alexander said, helping prepare the ballroom while Friday's golfers were out on the course.
While the tournament is a lot of work, Alexander said, he will happily continue organizing it for as long as he can. He's still as devoted to it as when he first conceived of the idea and solicited the help of a few fellow police officers to help pull it off.
"You have to remember why you're here," he said. "On that lowest day, when you still have to get up and deal with the business and a cranky volunteer, you have to remember why you're here_ we're here for the kids. For me, like a lot of these people, this is a labour of love."
Since the Sunshine Foundation was started by an Ontario police officer in 1987, the organization has provided dreams for 7,000 Canadian kids living with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses.
Last year there were 100 dreams granted, and that broke down to 24 travel dreams, 11 wishes for computers or electronics, nine requests for customized bikes, wheelchairs, or similar mobility devices, and five who receive visits from a favourite celebrity.
Among the Sunshine dreams, the foundation was the first group to bring dreamlifts to Canadian children.
"The DreamLift is an amazing, well-deserved escape for a plane full of special children who will spend an exciting day in Disneyland. It is a rare experience where they will be able to temporarily leave their daily struggles, challenges, and pain behind," said Alexander, who explained that this annual golf tournament has funded three such dreamlifts out of Vancouver.
In 2012, to celebrate Sunshine's 25th anniversary, the foundation has committed to funding 365 dreams - that's one a day.
And to further add to the foundation's quarter century celebration, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will also be hosting a Sunshine Foundation 25th anniversary Bright Night, Big Dreams dessert gala. It's being held Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. in at Meadow Gardens. Tickets are $25 each, and available in advance by calling Daryl Stone at 604-467-4408.
In large part, the tournament was made possible thanks to sponsors such as Lauralee Germain of T-Lane; Dan Saam and Otbitz TWD, Sid Keay and Ocean Trailer, as well as Al Dietrich and Reotech Construction.
As well, Alexander was joined on the organizing committee by his wife Katherine Alexander, as well as Tim Germain, Bob Murray, Bill Gill, Rhonda Knowles, Wendy Bianchet, Lauralee Germain, and Tammy Saam.