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Monday, July 15, 2024

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Make-a-Wish Golf Weekend Helps Ailing Children

By Rick Racela

RIO GRANDE – John and Sharon Simms, of Villas, moved to the county three years ago when doctors suggested that the salt air would help three of their five children who have cystic fibrosis.

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The Simms said that every cent was spent buying a house in the area and that the chil-dren would have seen a Christmas without presents. That’s before Make-A-Wish stepped in and granted nine-year-old John’s wish for a trip to Disney World.
Making wishes come true for children like the Simms has been the passion of Rick Jones, owner of Cape May Par 3 & Driving Range, for as long as he can remember.
Jones saw the success of his golf tournament for the Make-A-Wish Foundation grow from just over $19,000 in funds in 2004 to over $40,000 the following year.
After receiving the Cape May County Betterment Award from the county Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 6, he’s pushing the bar even higher.
He’s re-named the third annual event Make-A-Wish Weekend in Cape May County and is looking to reach out to the community in the hope that the event will continue to grow.
“My goal for 2006 is to raise $70,000,” Jones told the Herald on Oct. 19. “I want to raise enough money to provide a wish for every child in this county who is living with a life threatening illness.”
He said it is his personal mission to turn the event into a $100,000 fundraiser within 10 years.
Jones acknowledges it is a lofty goal and realizes that he won’t be able to do it alone, but said that he believes many in the “tight knit” county that will “step up” and support the cause.
Jones donates 100 percent of the proceeds for the golf tournament from both the course and driving range. When the event expanded in 2005 to include a celebrity bartender’s night at Menz Restaurant, Jones said that Jay Menz gave 100 percent of the tips, 100 per-cent of the proceeds collected at the door, and 50 percent of the bar earnings to Make-A-Wish.
“Jay Menz gave up his business for a day, I’m looking for more people to do the same,” said Jones.
“It’s like the saying, not one person can do everything, but we all can do something,” said Jones. There are opportunities to sponsor T-shirts, the driving range, or the BBQ. And our volunteer base could always use some help.”
He credited Beach Point Realty for sponsoring the golf outing at Par 3 and Garden State Dredging for their sponsorship of the celebrity bartender event at Menz Restaurant for the upcoming year.
He also recognized Make-A-Wish volunteer Cindy Dietrich who has been involved in the organization for more than five years.
“I don’t know where we’d be if we didn’t have Cindy helping. She does so much behind the scenes that makes it all possible,” said Jones.
When asked when the relationship with the foundation began, Jones recalled always wanting to do something but never having the time to “pull the trigger” and get things started.
“A lot of people thought I was crazy for starting a golf outing for my favorite charity. They looked at me like I had two heads,” Jones remembers.
“Who would believe that we sold out the first year, which is almost unheard of in a golf tournament, and surpassed our initial goal of $10,000?” he asked.
Jones said that the naysayers did not sway him in the least.
“These are kids we’re talking about. Very sick kids,” said Jones, who apologized for get-ting emotional when speaking about his the charity.
Jones and his wife, Joan, have two children Reed, 4, and Hunter, 2.
“When I look at my kids, I know that I would do anything for them. That’s why I feel so strongly about the Make-A-Wish kids and their families,” he said.

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Make A Wish

Jones said that through the foundation, the children aren’t receiving a “last wish,” they’re getting a “lasting wish.”
Jones said that, last year, Drew, of Seaville, was granted the swing set of his dreams. Mia Lisa, of Dennisville, will receive a swimming pool, and Drew, of Erma, was given a laptop computer with a specialized animation program.
“These kids tell someone everyday about their wish. It is something that stays with them,” said Jones.
Julia Vandenburg, 10, of Dennisville, was among local children and families that have benefited from the Make-A-Wish Weekend.
Vandenburg, who was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension when she was two and a half, told Make-A-Wish volunteer Cindy Dietrich that her wish was to meet Hilary Duff.
Vandenburg, her grandparents Jim and Diane Zalewski, and her father Kevin were driven in a stretch limo to the Wilkes Barre area. After a day of snow tubing at Montage Mountain, the family was escorted to a Hilary Duff concert.
“I was first in line to meet Hilary. I even brought her a box of dog biscuits for Little Dog Duff that goes on tour with her. She was so surprised that I thought of her dog that she laughed and gave me a big hug,” said Vandenburg.
Julia is a currently a fifth grader at Dennis Township Elementary School and is learning to play the flute.
“We have had children that wanted to go to Disney World and one young lady that wanted to regain her self esteem and we helped make that happen,” concluded Jones.
For more information on becoming a sponsor or volunteer for the 2006 Make-A-Wish Weekend call 889-2600 or 302-745-1206.
Contact Huggins at: lhuggins@cmcherald.com

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