Each year, SCFD personnel work to raise the money needed to buy gifts for children who have been placed in foster homes by the Spalding County Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). The primary fund-raiser for this special project is the annual Firefighters for Kids Golf Tournament, which was held Thursday at the Griffin Country Club with 19 four-player teams participating.
When asked why Spalding County firefighters and support staff put countless hours into this project, Lt. Keith Tate, chairman of the department’s Firefighters for Kids committee, said, “We do it to improve the lives of kids in Spalding County. We want to make sure they wake up Christmas morning to something under the tree.”
Tate explained that Thursday’s tournament — the fifth sponsored by the Fire Department — is the final organized event the department will hold this year. Now, the work falls in the hands of DFCS.
“Now Jennifer Cannon from DFCS will go through the kids’ lists and find out what they want before we go shopping, and that’s usually in mid-November,” Tate said.
Sandy Walker, DFCS business operations manager, said Firefighters for Kids is invaluable in that the special project provides so much for children who have so little.
“It pretty much provides their main wish-list items for our foster kids,” she said. “The state just doesn’t have a lot of money for that. In good years, they give at most $50 towards the kids’ Christmas. We have private donors, but most of our children’s Christmas comes from the Spalding County Fire Department. We couldn’t do it without the firefighters.”
Walker said that because Firefighters for Kids raises cash money, foster chidren are able to write wish lists, which allows them the opportunity to wake up Christmas morning to find something desired under the tree.
“The kids do a wish list with their three main items on it,” she said. “Members of the Fire Department and our office go shopping at Wal-Mart every year and we try to get all the children at least one item from their list.”
While many businesses and individuals also assist with gift-giving during the holiday season, Walker said this particular project fills a specific need.
“The big area that we have a void in are for tweens and teens,” she said. “The toy drives are wonderful, but they are targeted for younger children. This really helps with our older children in foster care.”
Those who participated in the Firefighters for Kids Golf Tournament not only enjoyed picture-perfect weather and a day of golf and good food, but also the opportunity to help children in need.
“This is our third year,” said golfer Paul Mayo. “This is an awesome thing they do for the kids. These are kids who aren’t going to have anything at all. It’s a well-put-on tournament and it’s fun — the camaraderie among the firefighters and the civilians. It’s just a lot of fun.”
In addition to Spalding County foster children, the big winners — those who left the tournament with bragging rights — were Ken Clark, who won the putting contest; Kerry Wood, who placed closest to the pin; and Darren Norris, who had the longest drive. The overall winning teams for the 2009 tournament were, in third place, Sykes Plumbing; Holiday Inn in second; with Cold Beer taking the top spot.
While relieved that the lion’s share of work is over, Tate is always mindful of why the SCFD works tirelessly to raise money to meet foster children’s needs.
“Any time we raise money for the kids, it’s successful,” he said. “Be sure to remind everyone that we accept donations year-round. They can drop it off or mail checks to Firefighters for Kids, 600 Carver Road, Griffin, GA 30224.”