The unique fundraising initiative is in memory of local golfer Dustin Barr, who passed away from cancer last spring.
THUNDER BAY - For any golfer, seeing the ball fly through the air and landing on the green is a great feeling. But for friends and family of a local golfer who recently passed away, seeing 3,000 golf balls fall from the sky onto the green lets them know they are helping keep his dreams alive of helping others.
The inaugural Raising the Barr Charity Golf Tournament was held on Friday at Whitewater Golf Course in memory of Dustin Barr, who lost his battle with cancer last March.
“We are keeping one of Dustin Barr’s dreams alive, the charity golf tournament, so we started a charity in his honour and we partnered with some of the groups that really helped him out,” said Dustin Wilson, one of the organizers and former golf coach to Barr.
“Children’s Wish and Ronald McDonald’s House were a big help when he was travelling for his treatments.”
The event included a unique fundraising initiative as well, called Golf Balls from Heaven, where a Helicopter from Wisk Air dropping 3,000 golf balls onto the green.
“It’s never happened in Northwestern Ontario so we are doing it first for Dustin,” Wilson said.
Golf balls were available for purchase and the ball that was closet to the hole would earn the purchaser $2,500. Of the 3,000 balls dropped, five ended up in the hole.
“We sold out our ticket drive in two weeks,” Wilson said. “The total revenue we brought in just off the helicopter drop was $20,000. So we are going to write a cheque today for $15,000 to Ronald McDonald House. With all the sponsors and all the help, I think we are over $40,000 or $50,000 to give back to the charities and support some families.”
Barr was an avid golfer and was first diagnosed with cancer in 2013 at the age of 17. After his diagnosis, he underwent numerous treatments, but he never let it get in the way of his love of the game.
“It was really hard when we went through that,” Wilson said. “As part of Children’s Wish, we got to go over to Scotland and played some of the best golf courses in the world. It was the trip of a lifetime.”
After the trip, Barr underwent surgery where he had part of his hip and pelvis removed. Doctors said the survival rate was less than five per cent, but he made it through the procedure and continued to exceed expectations.
“They did a miracle surgery and the doctor said if you live you won’t be able to play golf again or maybe even walk and within 18 months he got a full golf scholarship down in the States and started to train and play in tournaments,” Wilson said.
Unfortunately, two years ago the cancer returned and entered Barr’s bloodstream and he passed away in March.
Friends and family wanted to do something to keep Barr’s dream alive of not only loving golf, but helping the organizations that helped him so much while he was fighting cancer.
“It’s been an incredible few weeks and a lot of emotions are going to run high today because we haven’t even had a funeral yet,” Wilson said.
The event was made possible with the help of volunteers, friends, family, and 84 sponsors. Organizers said this is just the beginning of keeping Barr’s dream alive.
“We are planning on doing more events too. We will be doing different unique things for charities as we grow. The golf tournament will be something that happens every year.”