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Coronavirus can’t deter Diocese of Wilmington schools, organizations from holding annual golf outings

One of the Little Sisters of the Poor chats with some of the players at the 2019 Swing Fore the Little Sisters golf outing at Deerfield Golf Club. (Dialog file photo)

Golf tournaments and their surrounding activities have long been a way for nonprofits and schools to raise money. But organizations in the Diocese of Wilmington, like others all over the country, have had to cancel or reschedule events because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Fortunately, for those schools and organizations contacted by The Dialog, moving the tournaments did the trick in most cases. And those who scheduled theirs later in the calendar year are moving forward as planned

Ursuline Academy did some shuffling with its Jim Keegan Golf Outing and Tennis Tournament, which is played each May. This year’s event was technically canceled and replaced with a charity weekend that included a virtual trivia night, a reverse raffle and online auction, said Debbie Hurd, the director of advancement.

Golfers approach the green at last year’s Joseph McNesby Jr. Golf Outing at Deerfield Golf Club. CYM has moved the 2020 event to September. (Dialog file photo)

The school has moved its planned 2021 tournament from next May to this Oct. 26 at Deerfield Golf and Tennis Club, and its big fall fundraiser, an annual gala, was switched to next spring.

“We’re having a really big gala,” Hurd said. “We usually have 250-300 people come to that, and we didn’t want to take a chance and plan for that and then not be able to gather indoors.”

Hurd said the golf tournament can go on as it did previously with a few modifications, while the gala will benefit from the extra time in the hopes that larger indoor events will be possible by next spring. If the golf outing can’t happen, Ursuline will likely spend more time meeting with donors and making personal visits, either physically or virtually, she added.

One of the more well-known tournaments in the diocese is the Joseph McNesby Jr. Golf Outing, which benefits Catholic Youth Ministry. The original date in mid-July has been reset for Sept. 22 at the same location, Deerfield, and CYM athletic director Matt Carucci said the organization is hopeful of another sold-out event.

The tournament is CYM’s primary fundraiser. It helps defray the cost of the organization’s programming so that as many youngsters as possible are able to participate at the lowest price possible. CYM will have the golf, dinner and auction in September, with accommodations made for distancing.

“Deerfield has plans in place. We’re going to have plans,” Carucci said.

The event may be spread out to more of the grounds, and some of the auction may move online, he said. They will do as much as they can to make sure people are not bunching up at tables.

“Little tweaks, I think, are all we’ll need,” Carucci said.

Veterans of the CYM tournament have been in contact with the office to confirm their attendance, and the sponsorship money is starting to come in even though the event is still more than two months away.

“I think we’ll be able to get the numbers we normally get as far as attendance,” he said.

One more rescheduled round, also at Deerfield, is “Swing Fore the Little Sisters,” which benefits the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Newark. The Little Sisters of the Poor have come to rely on the tournament as one of their main fundraisers, said Debbie Strengari, the development director. The outing will be played on Aug. 20.

Not only will the Little Sisters proceed with the golf, but another popular event, the Nun Run, will go on as scheduled on Sept. 12, but at a new location: the Pencader Industrial Park in Newark. The Jeanne Jugan Residence on Salem Church Road is still under lockdown and thus is not available.

A few schools have not had to change the dates of their 18 holes. Saint Mark’s will hold its tournament Oct. 19 at Hartefeld National Golf Club in Avondale, Pa., and Archmere’s golf and tennis outing is set for Sept. 28 at Dupont Country Club in Wilmington.

Peter Curcio, the development director at Saint Mark’s, said in an email that the tournament provides money for scholarships, but it is “equally important for alumni and friends of Saint Mark’s to be together socially.”

The event sold out last year, and Saint Mark’s is expecting another big crowd this year, with some foursomes already registered. Curcio said the school will follow all federal and state guidelines and is planning a full slate of activities.

The same is true of Archmere, said Ainsley Palladino, the school’s director of alumni relations and events. Some changes will be in effect; the dinner probably will not be buffet-style, and participants may be in the outdoor dining area at Dupont. The event normally attracts around 115 golfers and another 20 to 30 tennis players.

Elaine Reilly, Archmere’s chief advancement officer, said the school and Dupont are keeping all safety precautions in mind.

“The safety of all the participants is critical, really the main thing for us. Dupont Country Club has been very good at working with us to ensure that we’re comfortable with them, and they’re comfortable,” she said.

The funds raised at the tournament, now in its 33rd year, is used for legacy scholarships – children and other descendants of graduates.

“The work and energy to put this together is done by our alumni council. The money raised goes to alumni legacy scholarships. It’s our community giving back to our community,” Reilly said.

St. Elizabeth School is one that is not certain about this year’s outing. John Pierson, the advancement director, found out this week that Ed Oliver Golf Club in Wilmington has canceled its scheduled events. The school is looking into the feasibility of moving, but its status “is up in the air,” Pierson said.

The school has turned to its alumni and families to help support its annual fund, he continued. Thus far, the response has been heartening.

“We’ve experienced greater generosity, an increase of alumni and current families giving to our annual fund in these uncertain times,” Pierson said. “We expect that trend to continue. Donors know we need annual fund support now, especially as we’ve had to pivot away from in-person fundraising events.”

Pierson said no matter what happens to the tournament this year, it will return. He expects it to be a St. Elizabeth fixture for many years to come.

Representatives from all of the organizations agreed that the social aspects are an important facet of the events. This year, that may be more prominent. After being stuck at home for such a long time, Carucci said, “with everything they haven’t been able to do, it’s important to get out. People want to get out there and play.”

Hurd said while any nonprofit wants to raise money, it’s important to get the community together. “I hate not being able to offer our people an opportunity to come together in the name of Ursuline.”