By Bianca Kaplanek
COAST CITIES — When Operation Game On held its second annual golf tournament last month, the goal was to raise enough money for a golf rehabilitation program for combat-injured troops. Mission accomplished. With 144 golfers, the event sold out and took in about $60,000, according to Tony Perez, Operation Game On founder.
But at least one item in the silent auction held at the dinner after the tournament took charity one-step further.
“Usually donations are made by companies never knowing who benefits from them other than the charity,” Perez said. Such was not the case for airline tickets and a hotel stay from United/Continental and Hilton Los Cabos.
The contributions were combined for a getaway package that went to Cory Grant, who had the highest bid at $1,800.
In honor of the troops defending his freedom, Grant said, he gave the prize back to Perez. About a week later Perez learned Trey Humphrey, one of the Marines participating in Operation Game On, was getting married Sept. 10. The couple planned to visit Humphrey’s mother in Wisconsin because they couldn’t afford a honeymoon.
“I visited the hospital and presented the Cabo trip to the young Marine and his fiancee,” Perez said. “I can’t begin to tell you the expression and appreciation they had.”
Perez said Humphrey is an amputee recovering from his wounds and just received his prosthesis about a month ago and is already golfing.
“You have contributed more than just a round-trip ticket and a stay at the Hilton,” Perez wrote to the donors. “You have impacted the lives of these two young people who will remember this for the rest of their lives.”
Operation Game On is available to soldiers returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom who are severely physically and mentally injured and going through rehabilitation at Naval Medical Center San Diego.
Participants receive 10 one-hour golf lessons from PGA-certified instructors followed by a professional fitting session at The Kingdom at TaylorMade Golf.
There is no cost to the soldiers, hospital or military.
Experts at the Naval Medical Center found golf is an essential link to the rehabilitation process for combat-wounded military personnel with extreme physical and mental disabilities.
“This is what Operation Game On is all about — to give back to our combat-injured troops,” Perez said about Grant’s donation. “I cried all the way home when I left the hospital.”