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Prescott member raises $35,000 for VAC

Bill Ware, a member at Hassayampa Golf Club in Prescott, decided he wanted to give back to the men and women who serve our country. Nine rounds, 162 holes and 15 hours later, the 74-year-old had raised $35,000 for the Veterans Airlift Command, an organization that provides free air transportation to wounded veterans and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes.

He selected the VAC because his friend and fellow Hassayampa member, Chuck Fulton, is a volunteer pilot for the organization. Ware knew first-hand the positive impact their work had on wounded warriors, so he recruited friends to pledge donations on a per-hole basis. To make it more challenging, he played “real golf,” with his friends and family, tracking his score the entire day.

He started the day at 5 a.m. with a golf cart prepped by Vietnam veteran and Hassayampa employee Dave Shipley.

“Dave got there at 4:30 a.m. so I could start at 5,” said Ware, “and he rode with me the first 18. He kept me in fresh horses all day.” Throughout the day, friends and family, including two military servicemen wounded in the Middle East, cheered him on, brought him supplies, kept his score and helped out in any way they could.

Ware’s biggest supporter was his wife, Sara, who managed the financial and organizational aspects of the fundraiser. Ware remarked, “I only have 15 hours in this thing, Sara has about 115. She did the hard stuff. For me it was like third grade at recess.” He averaged 78.3 the day of the event, with each round completed in about an hour and a half.

Walt Fricke founded the VAC in 2006 because of his own experience of being wounded at age 19 while serving as a pilot in Vietnam. Fricke wanted to help wounded service men and women avoid the hassles of passing through airport security and all of the other challenges that go with traveling by commercial airlines.

“I stared off thinking I’d fly my own plane,” Fricke recalled. “Now we have 1,800 volunteer pilots.” Each day the non-profit organization has planes in the air. To date, the organization has flown 5 million passenger miles.

Fricke was impressed by Ware’s accomplishment. “What Bill did was amazing,” he said. “If we could get 10 guys like Bill to do this across the country, we could raise our whole annual budget in one day.” Other than a small staff, the VAC is a primarily volunteer-based organization. Pilots donate their time, fly their own planes and pay for the fuel used during transport, which allows donation monies to go a long way.

To learn more about VAC, go to www.veteransairlift.org.