Network, Raley’s celeb golf tourney to help Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Network, Raley’s celeb golf tourney to help Tahoe

Scott Sonner
Associated Press Writer

RENO ” NBC Sports, the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship and Raley’s supermarket chain are teaming up to raise money for victims of the wildfire that destroyed 254 homes at Lake Tahoe.

In addition to a $50,000 contribution, an 800 number and Web site will air throughout the tourney July 13-15 on NBC to help solicit additional funds, the sponsors announced Monday.

“This is our ninth year as title sponsor and we feel a very deep sense of community with the Lake Tahoe area,” said Mark Killen, senior vice president of American Century Investments based in Kansas City, Mo.

“So when we heard about the fires that ravaged Lake Tahoe we started working with NBC to try to make a difference for those who suffered this tragedy,” he said during a teleconference with reporters on Monday.

The fire broke out June 24 on the south edge of South Lake Tahoe several miles west of Stateline, where the celebrity tournament has been held at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course for the past 17 years.

On Monday, the fire was declared 100 percent contained and the smoky skies had cleared, but there was a point last week when officials at American Century and NBC were considering canceling this year’s event.

“We’ve been coming here now for 18 years and have made some great, great friends so we were as alarmed and concerned as anyone,” said Jon Miller, executive vice president for NBC Sports.

“In the height of everything we reached out to the community to ask if they even wanted to go forward. The last thing we wanted to do was conduct this event in the face of what obviously was a growing tragedy,” Miller said Monday.

“The response we got from the community was overwhelming. Yes, they did want us to come, so we are going to be there.”

American Century and Raley’s each are kicking in $25,000 for the relief effort. Raley’s also has raised an additional $50,000 in a special fire fund from customers at its 130 stores in California and Nevada and intends to match up to $100,000 of those individual contributions.

“It has been a tragic time,” said Nancy McGagin, director of the Food for Families Program at Raley’s.

“People have lost their homes. Let’s not have them lose their jobs. This area up there, the economy is so dependent on tourism. I think it’s fabulous the golf tournament is going to go forward as planned,” she said.

The tournament features a field of 80 past and present sports stars, entertainers and other celebrities, including Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Ray Romano and Kevin Nealon.

In addition to the 800 number and Web site that will be featured during ESPN coverage of the tourney July 13 and NBC’s coverage July 14-15, NBC will air a public service announcement several times highlighting the fire damage and the public response, Miller said.

Jack Wagner, who became the first actor to win the tourney last year, said the tournament brings together a special combination of entertainers and athletes not seen anywhere else through golf “but it also brings something to the Lake Tahoe community.”

“When all this came down, obviously tragedy came to my mind. But what has come to my mind after that is opportunity,” Wagner said Monday.

“You’ve got an opportunity to really give back,” he said.

Mike Eruzione, the captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, agreed.

“It’s a great opportunity for the people of Tahoe to support the event and for us to show we care for them and help in anyway we can to get them back on their feet or maybe just for a week to forget the tragedy that has taken place,” he said.

“I think you’ll see a lot of people come out again to support this,” said Eruzione, one of only six golfers to compete in all 18 previous celebrity tournaments at Tahoe.

Phil Weidinger, a longtime Stateline resident who runs publicity for the event, said the community was fortunate the fire didn’t cause more harm.

“Although we lost 254 homes, we have had zero fatalities and only three minor injuries among firefighters,” Weidinger said.

“The sky is clear and blue again. It is getting back to normal from that standpoint. The community has really jumped in to help in a big way.

“We are a tight-knit mountain community and this tournament is a great way to show that off.”