A grand slam for children; Since 2009, golf tournament has been helping kids reach their educational goals

Toronto Star
June 26th, 2014
Page: S7, Section: Feature Pages
Jessica Wynne Lockhart Special to the Star

“It’s hardly surprising that the idea for a charity golf tournament was hatched on a golf course.

“In 2008, TD Bank Group vice-president James Dodds was playing a round of golf with Joe Carter in Nova Scotia when they first discussed the idea of organizing an event to celebrate the World Series winners.

“That conversation sparked Joe Carter’s inaugural event in August 2009, the Back2Back World Series Reunion, a gala and golf tournament that played tribute to the winning team members of the 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays. Much like the genesis of the tournament, their charity of choice also came quite naturally.

“The Children’s Aid Foundation does some phenomenal work with at-risk children. So it was kind of a no-brainer for us to put the proceeds towards them,” says Dodds. And once the first event was complete, it was clear it wasn’t going to the last.

“Joe was really keen to continue to give back to children’s charities in the Toronto area. So from there, the charity golf tournament was born,” explains Dodds, the co-chair and co-founder of the Joe Carter Classic.

“Now in its fifth year, the Joe Carter Classic golf tournament has grown to become a top celebrity golf tournament in Canada. For sports fans it offers an unparalleled opportunity to play alongside legends such as Gordie Howe, Kelly Gruber and Charles Barkley. Most importantly, it’s raised close to $1 million for the Children’s Aid Foundation (CAF) and other local children’s charities, making it one of the CAF’s top sources of funding.

“”What Joe Carter is doing is putting a spotlight on the need. We need a lot more for our kids,” says Valerie McMurtry, president and CEO of the CAF. In Canada, CAF programs support more than 300,000 children, including at-risk youth, crown wards and those in foster care.

The tournament supports the Joe Carter scholarship, just one of many academic awards offered to children in care through the CAF – and it’s much needed. In Ontario, only 44 per cent of high school students in care graduate, a number that drops to 30 per cent nationally. So for those who choose to attend post-secondary, the odds are already stacked against them, with tuition presenting an additional hurdle.

“”The students who come into our scholarship programs are pretty exceptional,” McMurtry says. “They’ve come up against a lot of adversity to make it through high school and then to pursue their dreams of getting into a college, university or trade school.”

“Since the launch of the tournament, McMurtry says the foundation has seen an increase in the demand for tuition support. “We hear from social workers who work directly with the young people that the language has changed from ‘if I’m going to go to school’ to ‘when I’m going to go to school,'” she says.

“Funds from the golf tournament are also earmarked the Joe Carter Family Support Fund, which supports CAF programs for high-risk teenagers, new refugees and immigrants, as well as counselling, therapeutic care and educational programs for children and their caregivers. McMurtry says that the endowment funds generated by the charity event ensure that these programs have a long-term future.

“”We’ll be able to sustain this long-term. As long as there are kids in need in the foster care system, we’re going to have funds out of the Joe Carter fund available for them,” she says.

“For Dodds, the best way to describe the tournament’s consistent growth over the past five years in terms of dollars raised for the CAF is to use a baseball analogy.

“”Our first year was a single, the second year was a double, the third year it was a triple and last year it was a home run,” he says. “We’re going for the grand slam this year.”

“As the tournament continues to evolve and grow with the support of their sponsors and hundreds of volunteers, Dodds says that one thing will remain the same. “The bottom line for us is that we do this for the kids and to raise funds for the Children’s Aid Foundation. So as long as we continue to raise money and make a significant impact in the community that we live and work in, we’re happy and proud of that.”