RANCHO SANTA FE — Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes and area residents teamed up recently to raise funds for reconstructive surgery for disadvantaged children during the 18th annual Fresh Start for Kids Celebrity Golf Classic at Morgan Run Club & Resort.
The two-day event, hosted by Alfonso Ribeiro, best known as Carlton on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” and Grant Show of “Melrose Place” fame, kicked off March 14 with cocktails, dinner and live and silent auctions.
Ribeiro, the event host for the past six years, said he learned about Fresh Start after meeting the organization’s chief executive, Shari Brasher.
“I absolutely just fell in love with the cause and the kids,” he said. “This is certainly something important and positive. It felt like something I needed to do.”
Highlighting the evening was Juan, a 15-year-old Fresh Start patient who shared his story about growing up with a cleft lip and palate, a congenital birth defect that causes an incomplete formation of the upper lip and roof of the mouth.
“I know how it feels when people make fun of you,” Juan said. After undergoing three surgeries and 28 dental treatments since 2004, “people didn’t make fun of me anymore,” he said.
The following day more than 100 golfers hit the links. Each foursome was paired with a celebrity or athlete, such as former Los Angeles Raider and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen, Jeffrey Nordling, who is currently appearing on “Desperate Housewives,” and Tina Mickelson, sister of famed local golfer Phil Mickelson.
The tournament featured food and beverages along the course and contests that included prizes for closest to the pin, longest drive and most honest group. There was a Volvo for anyone making a hole in one, but no one did.
The cost for the two-day event was $700 per person or $2,500 for a foursome. Tickets for the dinner only were $75. The event raised approximately $135,000, exceeding the goal by nearly $10,000.
“We are very grateful to the many people who supported this event,” Nancy Kelly, Fresh Start development director, said.
Since its inception in 1991, Fresh Start Surgical Gifts has provided more than $17 million of free reconstructive surgery and comprehensive medical services to nearly 5,000 children and young adults who suffer from physical deformities caused by birth defects, accidents, abuse or disease.
The Carlsbad-based nonprofit organization offers multidisciplinary care and continuous follow-up. While some surgeries are fairly simple, others are extremely complex and require numerous surgeries and medical treatments over the course of many years. “Fresh Start is committed to completing the necessary surgical and medical treatments, even if it takes many months or years to achieve the best result,” the Web site states.
A team of more than 600 local volunteers provide all donated services that include surgeries, laser treatments, speech sessions, consultations and evaluations. Visit www.freshstart.org for more information.