Having to delay the 8th annual Soboba Foundation & Soboba Casino Resort Charity Golf Tournament due to COVID-19 precautions did not hinder the excitement that was evident among the players at the Soboba Springs Golf Course. The event, originally scheduled for two days in April, was extended to three days from Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 in order to maintain social distancing for 30 four-member teams each day.
Despite the challenges to make sure the tournament could be held safely while still offering an enjoyable experience for the golfers, the event was a total success. Ten local nonprofits had previously been chosen to each receive $10,000 for their respective programs. They were: Boxing for Christ, Cops 4 Kids & Communities, Friends of Valley-Wide Foundation, Grandfathers for Golf, Historic Hemet Theatre Foundation, Hemet Unified School District’s SAILS ATP Program, Natives in Recovery, Ramona Humane Society, San Jacinto Unified School District and T.H.E. Center Inc.
“It was great hearing from everyone that they were glad we found a way to have the tournament,” Soboba Tribal Council Chairman and Tournament Director Isaiah Vivanco said. “We know these organizations need these funds now more than ever before, so we were happy to be able to find a way to make it work, even if it was a little different this year.”
In the past, volunteers from the tournament’s beneficiaries helped with all aspects of the event. This year, most volunteers were Tribal Members and their families who worked with staff to make sure things ran smoothly.
Also different was a contactless drive-through registration process as well as curbside pickup of raffle prizes. Winners of each drawing were notified via an app that was developed specifically for the event. It also provided constant contact between players and event organizers. Face masks were required to be worn and pre-packaged breakfast and lunch to-go meals were provided to all players.
Since there was no end-of-play banquet held for all participants as in the past, organizations were asked to send one or two representatives to the Soboba Foundation’s board meeting on Sept. 14 to receive their checks. Visits were scheduled in 10-minute intervals to allow for proper social distancing.
Jeff Penn, Executive Director of Cops 4 Kids & Communities, said his group was honored and grateful to be among the groups that were selected this year.
“My guess is most nonprofit organizations globally have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Unfortunately, we are no different from them,” he said. “One of the main challenges is the financial health of our organization that has been significantly impacted due to not being able to have our fundraising events (Battle of the Badges, etc.) with COVID-19 looming around every corner. As always, the incredible Soboba Foundation is there to help our community, especially in these uncertain times.”
As a first-time recipient of funding made possible by the charity golf tournament, Penn said that the generous gift will make a meaningful difference for his organization.
“Simply put, without the kindness and generosity of the Soboba Foundation, we would be in a world of hurt,” Penn said. “During this turbulent and uncertain time, I am absolutely humbled by the compassion and generosity of the Soboba Foundation and all of their members. Because of the amazing people at Soboba, we are and will remain strong.”
San Jacinto Unified School District’s Communications & Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Dawn Lawrence said her district has been able to implement game-changing programs as a result of being beneficiaries of past tournaments. This year, the funds will be used to purchase Native American literature for every school library in the district. The idea was inspired by Joseph Ontiveros, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at the Soboba Cultural Resource Department, when he presented to SJUSD teachers and administrators at the January 2020 Equity Conference.
“Now with the new school year underway, albeit distance learning only, school Library Media Technicians and the District Librarian will start planning for library additions with the help of the American Indian School, Family & Community Liaison before October,” Lawrence said.
Without the generosity of Soboba’s golf tournament, this project would have been shelved because so much of the district’s funds, both regular and emergency provided, have been directed specifically at accomplishing (electronic) distance learning and preparing for eventual return to in-person instruction with social distancing protection.
The money was also a boon for Hemet Unified’s LifeWorks (SAILS) Adult Transition Program who plan to use the money to help improve independent living and work opportunities for its adult students. The original intention was to use the money to meet transportation needs for students in the workability program receiving hands-on training.
“Our plans for the funds have changed somewhat since the pandemic,” said Christina Gallardo-Barrett, Program Specialist and LifeWorks Administrator. “Our program has a component of taking our students into the community. Since the pandemic, we have changed our focus to create similar opportunities for our students on-site without compromising learning opportunities.”
She said the pandemic has reframed the way everyone thinks and even though it’s been a challenge, they have discovered new ways of doing things that will improve their practices in the future.
“These funds allow us to fast-track our plans and better serve our students during these unprecedented times,” Gallardo-Barrett said. “The LifeWorks Adult Transition Program (SAILS) is extremely grateful for the generosity of the Soboba Foundation and for being a community partner to create positive outcomes for all.”
She appreciates that the Soboba Foundation pushed forward to hold this event that benefits so many great organizations and is grateful to be one of the recipients.
Jeff Sheppard is Ramona Humane Society’s President and CEO, which is dedicated to fostering the humane treatment of all animals. It implemented the Soboba C.A.R.E. (Community Animal Rehabilitation Effort) project to give homeless animals a better chance at adoption by providing treatment of their medical conditions. Many of the animals arrive at the shelter injured or ill as a result of abandonment or cruelty cases.
“The funds will be prudently used to pay for veterinary treatment at the Small Animal Care Center for injured or sick homeless animals. Our foster care network and our adoption partners will share in the recovery and rehabilitation of the animals receiving treatment,” Sheppard said. “This type of program is so important to continue our goals for becoming a no-kill facility, so we are always seeking funding.”
Tony Viola with Grandfathers for Golf said last year’s grant from the tournament enabled the program to expand and serve more children. This year’s funds are also earmarked for expansion, which will be possible by adding another golf course where they can teach the game. Unfortunately, that is currently on hold due to Riverside County restrictions amid the pandemic.
“We are (working from home) doing those things we can to benefit the kids such as going over the rules and teaching etiquette of the game,” Viola said. “The Soboba Foundation did a wonderful job under the circumstances. It appeared that a good time was had by all tournament participants.”
Boxing for Christ has been fortunate to have been chosen as a beneficiary at past tournaments, which has made a huge difference for their year-round program. Some of this year’s money will be used to buy gym equipment. With new restrictions in place due to COVID-19 requirements and the fact they can only meet outdoors and not inside their gym, there was a great need for equipment geared for outdoor use.
“Since Soboba Foundation has been helping Boxing for Christ, the program has grown to the point that we are outgrowing the building. We are now adding women’s classes and training 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds on Saturdays. We have reached 1,000 students that have gone through our program since it started in 2012,” Founder and CEO Sonia Ramos said. “Soboba Foundation has helped us get to national tournaments, where we have brought home national champs. Because of Soboba Foundation’s help, we have a boxer that made it to the 2020 Olympics as an alternate. It takes a whole community to raise these at-risk youth and Soboba Foundation has shown that they care about the youth. Boxing for Christ would like to thank Soboba Foundation for helping us make champions in our valley.”
Photos courtesy of Carlos Puma/Puma Images