Charities display strong swing at joint La Cañada fundraiser

In the fifth year of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Support Group and Desi Geestman Foundation pairing up on the greens, 91 golfers came out to the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club Monday to raise nearly $20,000 for charity.

“This was by far the best turnout for golfers and for sponsorships that we’ve had in many years,” said tournament chairman Rick Dinger. “It’s been a great marriage because we’ve got a plethora of volunteers and we kind of cross-pollinate each other’s charities.”

The CV Sheriff Support Group pays for equipment and training that the local sheriff’s station otherwise could not afford. In the last few years the group has helped fund an emergency operations center and trailer, as well as dirt bikes for search-and-rescue missions, Dinger said. The next project is a covered outdoor meeting place for the station.

“What I like about it is we’ve got zero expenses,” Dinger said of the support group. “All the money we raise goes to assisting the sheriffs. When the county can’t come in, we’ve got the money and there’s no red tape, so we can make things happen pretty quickly.”

Dinger, president of Crescenta Valley Insurance, has been running the support group’s golf tournament since 1999. He got involved in running the Desi Geestman Foundation’s tournament seven years ago and figured the two could work better together.

“We both had about 30 to 40 regular players and had some great sponsors, and you lose your sponsors if you don’t have an event,” said Dinger. “Both tournaments were struggling. We put them together and it’s really flourished.”

Ileana Geestman founded the Desi Geestman Foundation in memory of her daughter, who passed away after a two-year fight with stomach cancer in 1999.

The foundation provides support such as gas and grocery cards or hotel stays to families with cancer-stricken children. It was a direct outgrowth of her daughter’s desire to help other children, Geestman said.

“Living at the hospital, we got to see how many children in so many areas, races, religions, ages were going through the same things we were going through,” said Geestman. “One day [Desi] said to me, ‘Mom, we’re so lucky, our community, our friends, our family, they all bring me things, they help our family. What can we do for the other kids?’”

Geestman said the response to this year’s golf tournament was heartening.

“It was much better this year, it’s kind of growing back from the [struggling] economy,” she said.

Geestman said that the foundation has four daily volunteers, and brings in many more for the annual Pajama Party event. Thanks to volunteer support, especially from area high school students, the foundation is easily reaching its goal of keeping overhead to less than 20% of its budget.

Clarke Anderson, a pediatric oncologist and member of the foundation’s board, said he got involved because he saw firsthand how much the foundation helps, and added that the tournament got him out on the links after a decade-old shoulder injury.

“I thought I could never golf again — a doctor who can’t golf,” Anderson said.

He said a patient who had lost his left arm to cancer won the tournament a few years ago.

“He taught me this one-armed swing that you can easily get 75-yard drives with,” he said.

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