In years past, the Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic has supported the vision that families with children battling cancer should have a place to call home while receiving treatment at local hospitals. That dream became a reality when OK Kids Korral recently opened, lessening the financial, physical and emotional burden facing pediatric cancer patients and their families.
The 11th annual golf classic will be May 16-17 with a Friday night invitationonly event at Riverwind Casino followed by the celebrity-filled golf tournament Saturday at Belmar Golf Club.
“We work on this event for months and months because we know it helps keep all the great things at the OK Kids Korral up and running,” said Toby Keith in a news release.
It’s The Toby Keith Foundation’s largest fundraiser, and last year’s event raised $1 million to help finish construction of the Korral, located at 818 NE Eighth St. Proceeds from this year’s shindig will fund operations at the new $8.5 million, 25,000-square-foot facility.
“It’s really the backbone of our fundraising,” said Juliet Nees-Bright, executive director of the foundation. “Without that event, it would be very difficult to keep the doors open.”
About 750 guests will bid on a slew of live and silent auction items — including an African safari and autographed items from the likes of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, baseball great Derek Jeter and more — during Friday night’s dinner. Keith will act as auctioneer and spearhead the entertainment.
A sold-out double shotgun golf tournament will include celebs such as Bob Stoops, former NBA player Sam Bowie and pro golfer Steve Stricker.
The foundation and Belmar Golf Club will host the third annual OK Kids Korral Championship on June 16-21. The Adams Golf Pro Tour Series will feature at least 100 professional golfers.
A collegiate tournament, the Schooner Fall Classic, will be hosted by Keith’s wife, Tricia, in October.
Since opening, the Korral has had more than 75 area families. Working on referrals, the facility helps families stay together, enjoy home-cooked meals and feel more comfortable, Nees-Bright said.
The Korral features 12 private suites, a gourmet kitchen, a neutropenic wing for children with weakened immune systems, even a movie theater and game room.
Because employees and volunteers work so closely with families, emotions can run high, Nees-Bright said.
“Some days you feel very helpful, and some days there’s a rough story,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s all worth it because we can see how much we really are helping the families.”