The golfers aren’t the only ones hoping for birdies this week, as hundreds of local charities also win each time a birdie is made.
Over the years, the John Deere Classic has become almost synonymous with Birdies for Charity, a program that gives 100 percent of money collected to local charities. The tournament then takes its annual profits and adds a second bonus check of 5-10 percent to each organization.
Donors can make a flat donation to the charity of their choice, or pledge a designated amount per birdie. They are also able to guess the total number of birdies recorded during Wednesday through Sunday play at the John Deere Classic for the chance to win a car, riding lawn mower, airline vouchers and other prizes.
“I’ve been donating every year that I’ve been here. This is my fourth year, and I just think it’s important to donate to charity. Plus, I think it’s fun to guess the amount of birdies,” said Maria Hedgpath, a worker at the tournament who stopped to donate Friday.
Last year, Birdies for Charity raised $6.32 million for area organizations.
Gary Vogelgesang is a disaster volunteer for the Red Cross. While serving after hurricanes like Katrina and Gustav, he says he saw that money in action.
“It makes you so thankful that you have a home to go to. They have nothing to go to,” said Vogelgesang. “It’s incredible, and they’re so unbelievably thankful.”
Friday, Vogelgesang had an assignment much closer to home — collecting visitors’ pledges at one of two Birdies for Charity tents at Deere Run.
“We actually started getting pledges in about April, and for the last couple months have had quite a few coming in already. This is the final stretch, so everybody’s trying to rush and get them in now,” said Kristy Ketcham-Jackson, director of Birdies for Charity.
Since 1971, the John Deere Classic has delivered more than $50 million to regional charities, most of that through Birdies for Charity.