Soboba charity golf tournament up to par once again

Members of the Soboba Foundation and Tribal Council get the 12th annual charity golf tournament off to a great start Tuesday, April 2, with from left, Isaiah Vivanco, Michael Bentiste, Daniel Valdez, Julie Arrietta-Parcero, Andy Silvas, Dondi Silvas, Catherine “Cat” Modesto, Geneva Mojado and Monica Herrera. Valley News/Nathan Miranda photo

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

The 12th annual Soboba Foundation and Soboba Casino Resort Charity Golf Tournament was played under blue skies, Tuesday to Thursday, April 2-4. Last year’s event at the Soboba Springs Golf Course transitioned to an indoor cornhole tournament when heavy rains affected any outdoor activities. Golfers said they were glad to be back on the greens this year, with 36 foursomes playing each of the three days, culminating with a banquet at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center at 5 p.m. every evening.

Jason Cozart, general manager of SCR and tournament director, said this year was another great success.

“It was made possible by all of our wonderful partners, sponsors, volunteers and coordinators,” he said. “I cannot overstate the amount of blood, sweat and tears that are put into this event each and every year by the members of the Soboba Foundation, Andrew Vallejos and his staff with the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, the staff here at Soboba Casino Resort, and the Placencia family who gives so generously with their time and effort.”

Each morning, players were greeted to the course by Soboba Foundation President Dondi Silvas and Foundation Secretary Andy Silvas.

“Being able to check in the golfers gave me an opportunity to put a face to the name and personally thank them for their generosity,” Dondi said.

Soboba Tribal Council Chair Isaiah Vivanco welcomed and thanked all those who attended before the shotgun starts at 10 a.m.

“A lot of what we do and what our foundation does in supporting charities is because of you and your involvement and we appreciate that; it goes a long way,” Vivanco said. “We appreciate the other Tribal leaders that are out here; we support one another when it comes to things like this, and I can’t say thank you enough.”

Nearly a dozen nonprofits benefited from the event, each taking home a $12,000 check for their part in volunteering to assist with various responsibilities throughout the event. From early morning registrations to raffle prize pickups after golfing was done, all were assigned specific duties. Joey and Tara Placencia directed them to their stations as they arrived at the course, eager to help.

Brianna Miller is the philanthropy manager at Voices for Children, a private, nonprofit organization that recruits, trains and supports Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers who speak up for the needs and well-being of children in foster care. As the only agency designated by the courts to provide CASA volunteers in San Diego and Riverside counties, Voices for Children’s CASAs play a role in helping judges make the most informed decisions for children’s futures.

It was the group’s first year participating in the tournament and provided seven volunteers that were assigned to parking lot duties and overseeing one of the many hole activities/games that were offered throughout the course.

“We raise all of the funds necessary to sustain our program. We do not charge for any of our services,” Miller said. “Our revenue comes from competitive grants from public entities and from private sources, including individuals, corporations, and foundations, who, like Soboba, are committed to the lives of children in foster care.”

She said the tournament-generated funds will be used to recruit, train and support additional CASA volunteers to serve more children in foster care in San Jacinto and neighboring communities. Miller said her favorite part of the event was the opportunity to show appreciation to the Tribe and share about what Voices for Children does within the local community. She said that the delicious food at the banquet was a nice bonus as well as enjoying the opportunity to personally thank members of the Tribe for their support and to learn about the other benefiting nonprofits.

“We’re grateful to have been selected as beneficiaries for the Soboba Charity Golf Tournament this year,” Jessica Muñoz, president and CEO, said. “The funds that have been invested in our program will make it possible for more vulnerable children in foster care to receive the dedicated advocacy of a CASA volunteer. We simply can’t say thank you enough.”

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Miriam Crocker, communications coordinator for Michelle’s Place Cancer Resource Center, said it was also the first time their nonprofit was chosen to participate in the annual golf tournament. They provided six volunteers who assisted with parking and the creative, competitive hole activities on the course.

“We are expanding our Behavioral Health support services to include a variety of new support groups, child and family events, art therapy workshops for children affected by cancer and individual counseling to our clients,” Crocker said. “We are so grateful to receive these funds to grow such an important resource for our clients, as the demand for these vital services continues to grow.”

In 2023, Michelle’s Place launched its own Department of Behavioral Health and now offers free counseling appointments to clients and their family members. They have eliminated the need for a referral, there is no cost barrier for clients as the services are free and they can immediately access mental health professionals both in person and via telehealth. The expansion will offer additional hours and serve more clients.

Crocker said that whenever the opportunity arose, volunteers at the tournament were happy to share about the nonprofit’s mission because “No One Should Face Cancer Alone,” and added, “We are beyond honored to have been selected as a beneficiary for this tournament.”

Attending the banquet with Michelle’s Place fundraising and development officer Amber Berkey, Crocker said, “It was absolutely stunning. The charcuterie/seafood table was beautiful, the decorations were tasteful and impressive and overall the presentation was fun and to the point, which I am sure the golfers appreciated after a day of these festivities.”

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Care-A-Van Transit Systems’ program coordinator Carolina Brooks said the nonprofit agency will use the funds to continue to provide transportation services for those who need to access critically needed services and resources through the free service they offer to elderly and disabled individuals and veterans. The five volunteers they provided helped out at the golf course and the event center. She said they shared the organization’s mission/goals with players and others at the tournament.

“Everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves,” Brooks said.

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Native Youth Foundation empowers Indigenous youth by providing positive athletic and educational experiences.

“Native Youth Foundation would like to thank Soboba for including us in the tournament and picking our foundation as a recipient,” Sports Director Keith Vasquez said.

For its first year participating, four volunteers were assigned to run two games at two different holes.

He said the $12,000 will be used to fund their girls’ flag football team tournament fees and travel costs as well as women’s self-defense classes and the boys’ seven versus seven flag football teams. Teams will be participating in local tournaments as well as traveling to Las Vegas, Arizona, Puerto Rico and Denver.

“The whole Soboba Charity Golf Tournament was amazing,” Vasquez said. “The amount of vendors was probably our favorite part as well as being able to network and share our mission with the players and vendors at the tournament. This is by far the best tournament that we’ve been to, and we look forward to participating in it in the future.”

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Other nonprofits who benefited from this year’s tournament are Boxing for Christ, California Tribal Families Coalition, EXCEED, Friends of Valley-Wide Foundation, Inter-Tribal Sports, San Jacinto Mountain Bike Team and Soroptimist International-San Jacinto/Hemet Club.

During the April 3 banquet, Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernest L. Stevens Jr. made a special presentation of a Pendleton blanket to Soboba Tribal Chair Geneva Mojado, saying that she has done so much for Tribal sports over the years.

Cozart said, “I am grateful to be part of this event, and the best part is having a front row seat to witness all of the teamwork and dedication that it takes to put this thing on every year. We’re already looking forward to 2025 and finding ways to continue improving the event.”

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