As a way to honor his late wife, O’Brien launched the Kiwanis Salmon Tournament in 2005. Each year, O’Brien enlists about 30 charter fishing boats to take part in the fundraiser, secures financial sponsorship of the boats, and serves as the liaison between the Tri-Cities Kiwanis and the St. Jude Hospital organization, which is based in Memphis, Tenn. During the past six years, more than $200,000 has been raised for St. Jude through the annual tournament.
O’Brien said he also wants to raise funds for the DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
Each year, several young patients in treatment at DeVos are invited to participate in the St. Jude Salmon Tournament. This spring, O’Brien began work to create an annual fundraising event specifically for DeVos.
While O’Brien’s recent fundraising activities have focused on serving young cancer patients, his passion for helping children began a long time ago. For 45 years, O’Brien organized, coached and refereed youth sports leagues in Muskegon and the Tri-Cities area.
In 1970, he was instrumental in establishing the Tri-Cities Family YMCA Youth Basketball League.
O’Brien said he is especially proud of encouraging and providing girls an opportunity to play basketball. He also helped with a major capital campaign for the Tri-Cities YMCA.
O’Brien also provided an opportunity to raise money for MICOPS, an organization that assists with the immediate needs of families of state police officers who are killed in the line of duty, and he has participated in almost every Kiwanis Club program and fundraiser since its beginning in 2004.
Tri-Cities Kiwanis is a service organization comprised of men and women from the Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg area with the objective to bring aid to children in need in the community and the world. The club meets each Wednesday at noon.