In 2005, Glacier Greens Golf Course pro Scott Fraser had a stroke of genius. Nine years later, his brainchild has chipped in more than $1 million for the fight against ALS.
Fraser, now a Realtor with Royal LePage, came up with the idea of a golfathon to raise money for research into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), for which there is presently no cure.
He recalls it started when two of his employees at Glacier Greens (Bruce Taylor and Terry Donaldson) were struck with the disease and eventually forced to quit their jobs because of it. “(Bruce) wanted to put a change box on the counter for fundraising. I sat down with him and said, ‘Why don’t we do something a little more creative?'”
Fraser held a day-long golfing marathon, playing 288 holes and raising almost $8,000. “Local Rotarians Gerry Feniak and John Challander were both amazing to deal with,” said Fraser of the service club’s support of the inaugural effort.
Fraser was on the PGA of BC board of directors and took the idea to them, and the PGA of BC Golf A Thon for ALS was born. “(The PGA of BC) encouraged their members to participate in the annual Golf A Thon held during June, ALS Awareness month,” said Wendy Toyer, executive director of the ALS Society of BC.
“Since that day over 180,044 holes have been played by over 100 PGA of BC professionals at courses throughout B.C., and over $1,022,000 has been raised to support patient services programs provided by the ALS Society of BC,” Toyer added.
“Wendy’s real good to work with. They jumped on board and gave us a lot of support, and now we’ve got Global Television involved. (Steve Darling is an ambassador),” Fraser said.
“It’s been neat seeing the Golf A Thon progress along. It’s starting to make its way across Canada now. There’s four provinces that have PGA involvement with ALS. Ideally, we’d like to see it coast to coast. My guess is by the end of this decade we’ll see that. I hope it will be a race between getting it coast to coast or a cure,” Fraser said.
“We’re starting to hear now that they’re putting some drugs to trial. My goal’s always been to cancel it, just get a cure. There’s no survivors from ALS, it’s a crappy disease.
“It would be nice to see some of this has really made a difference for people. The people that really got us started on (the Golf A Thon) are gone, and a lot of the people that are diagnosed with it today will probably not see the fruits of this, but some day there will be somebody.”
Fraser has participated in five sunrise-to-sunset Golf A Thons, the last two years ago. “The young bucks are doing it now. The year I did 301 holes (2007) I had fluid on my ankles and my knees for six weeks. The young guys are doing it now. It’s kind of neat to see,” he added
“It’s nice to see the Valley still supports it,” said Fraser, noting the event is held at both Glacier Greens and Crown Isle. “Pretty much every club that’s signed on to it, none of them have left. It’s been great to see the support and neat to see it grow and hit $1 million.”
When he started the fundraiser Fraser did not envision it hitting seven figures. “I just wanted to see it gain some traction. I figured if we could get to $150,000 or $200,000 …
“As the years went on it just got bigger and bigger. It was pretty apparent to us two or three years ago we were headed for this kind of total. I’m proud of it. It’s gained its own momentum and I don’t think you’ll ever see it do anything but move forward, unless there’s a cure.”
ALS kills two to three Canadians every day, and it’s never far from home. Don McCusker of the Vancouver Golf Club had been participating in the Golf A Thon and was subsequently diagnosed with ALS. “There’s a local connection: his dad lives here at Crown Isle,” Fraser said.
He adds the best way to support the PGA of BC Golf A Thon for ALS is by going to golfathonforals.ca. There is a list of golfers and courses and you can pledge at any time of the year.