Soboba golf tournament benefits local nonprofits

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Soboba Foundation members get ready to tee off during the first day of the Soboba Foundation and Soboba Casino Resort eighth annual Charity Golf Tournament at the Soboba Springs Golf Course, Aug. 30, including from left, president Dondi Silvas, member-at-large Sally Moreno-Ortiz, member-at-large and tournament director Isaiah Vivanco, member-at-large Monica Herrera and secretary Michelle Modesto. They removed their face coverings for the photo. Not pictured is Soboba Foundation Vice-President Jacob Briones, Fire Captain who was battling a fire up North. Valley News/Carlos Puma/Puma Images photo

Mike Hiles

Special to Valley News

The eighth annual Soboba Foundation and Soboba Casino Resort Charity Golf Tournament was scheduled for April, but when COVID-19 precautions set in, it was postponed until the end of August. The postponement did not affect the enthusiasm of the 360 golfers who took to the Soboba Springs Golf Course, Aug. 30 through Sept. 1. Ensuring golfers’ safety, they were spaced out with only 30 foursomes playing each day.

Ten local nonprofits were chosen to receive $10,000 for their respective programs, including Boxing for Christ, Cops 4 Kids & Communities, Friends of Valley-Wide Foundation, Grandfathers for Golf, Historic Hemet Theatre Foundation, Hemet Unified School District’s SAILS ATP Program, Natives in Recovery, Ramona Humane Society, San Jacinto Unified School District and T.H.E. Center Inc.

Sonia Ramos, founder and CEO of Boxing for Christ and coach Jack Flores display the $10,000 check they received as one of 10 beneficiaries of this year’s charity golf tournament, with Soboba Foundation members who are socially distanced behind them from left, vice president Jacob Briones, president Dondi Silvas and members-at-large Sally Moreno-Ortiz, Monica Herrera and Isaiah Vivanco. Valley News/Carlos Puma/Puma Images photo

“It was great hearing from everyone that they were glad we found a way to have the tournament,” Isaiah Vivanco, tournament director and chairman of the Soboba Tribal Council, said. “We know these organizations need these funds now more than ever before, so we were happy to be able to find a way to make it work, even if it was a little different this year.”

In the past, volunteers from the tournament’s beneficiaries helped with all aspects of the event. This year, most volunteers were tribal members and their families.

Also, the tournament employed a contactless drive-thru registration process as well as curbside pickup of raffle prizes. Winners of each drawing were notified via an app that was developed specifically for the event. It also provided constant contact between players and event organizers. Face masks were required to be worn and prepackaged breakfast and lunch to-go meals were provided to all players.

Soboba Tribal Council members are on hand to mark the start of this year’s three-day charity golf tournament at Soboba Springs Golf Course, including from left, sergeant-at-arms Daniel Valdez; chairman Isaiah Vivanco, who also served as tournament director; treasurer Sally Moreno-Ortiz; vice chair Geneva Mojado and secretary Monica Herrera. They removed their face coverings for the photo. Valley News/Carlos Puma/Puma Images photo

Since there was no end-of-play banquet held for all participants as in the past, organizations were asked to send one or two representatives to the Soboba Foundation’s board meeting, Sept. 14, to receive their checks. Visits were scheduled in 10-minute intervals to allow for social distancing.

Jeff Penn, executive director of Cops 4 Kids & Communities, said his group was honored and grateful to be among those selected this year.

“My guess is most nonprofit organizations globally have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Unfortunately, we are no different from them,” he said. “One of the main challenges is the financial health of our organization that has been significantly impacted due to not being able to have our fundraising events (Battle of the Badges, etc.) with COVID-19 looming around every corner. As always, the incredible Soboba Foundation is there to help our community, especially in these uncertain times.”

As a first-time recipient of funding made possible by the charity golf tournament, Penn said that the gift will make a difference for his organization.

“Simply put, without the kindness and generosity of the Soboba Foundation, we would be in a world of hurt,” Penn said. “During this turbulent and uncertain time, I am absolutely humbled by the compassion and generosity of the Soboba Foundation and all of their members. Because of the amazing people at Soboba, we are and will remain strong.”

A golfer takes a swing on the first of three days of the Soboba Foundation and Soboba Casino Resort eighth annual Charity Golf Tournament that benefited local nonprofit organizations. Valley News/Carlos Puma/Puma Images photo

Dawn Lawrence, coordinator of San Jacinto Unified School District’s communications and emergency preparedness, said her district has implemented game-changing programs as a result of being beneficiaries of past tournaments. This year, the funds will be used to purchase Native American literature for every school library in the district. The idea was inspired by Joseph Ontiveros, tribal historic preservation officer at the Soboba Cultural Resource Department, when he presented to SJUSD teachers and administrators at the January 2020 Equity Conference.

“Now with the new school year underway, albeit distance learning only, school library media technicians and the district librarian will start planning for library additions with the help of the American Indian school, family and community liaison before October,” Lawrence said.

Boxing for Christ was chosen as a beneficiary at past tournaments and said the gift made a difference for their year-round program. Some of this year’s money will be used to buy gym equipment. With new restrictions in place due to COVID-19 requirements and the fact they can only meet outdoors and not inside their gym, there was a great need for equipment geared for outdoor use.

“Soboba Foundation has helped us get to national tournaments, where we have brought home national champs. Because of Soboba Foundation’s help, we have a boxer that made it to the 2020 Olympics as an alternate,” Sonia Ramos, founder and CEO of Boxing for Christ, said. “It takes a whole community to raise these at-risk youth and Soboba Foundation has shown that they care about the youth.”