Four years ago, Folds of Honor was created after Maj. Rooney witnessed the remains of a U.S. soldier being carted onto the tarmac at Grand Rapids’ Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Waiting for the fallen soldier was his family, including his young son.
“It started on that fateful flight to Grand Rapids,” Maj. Rooney said. “I didn’t know it at the time, but when I looked out that window, I saw the real price of freedom.”
As a result, the Rooneys started Folds of Honor, an organization that offers scholarships and other assistance to the dependents of those U.S. military members who are injured or killed while protecting freedom in Afghanistan or Iraq.
“There are over 240,000 dependents, spouses or kids, who have had somebody killed or disabled in Iraq or Afghanistan, and 87 percent of them don’t get any federal education assistance,” said Maj. Rooney, who was in Grand Haven on Friday for the fourth annual Patriot’s Day Golf Outing. “We do everything we can to honor these families and empower them through education.”
The Patriot’s Day Golf Outing is the inaugural fundraiser for Folds of Honor. The first year, 68 golfers came out in support of the cause. On Friday, nearly 200 golfers filled up both morning and afternoon starts at Grand Haven Golf Club.
While the money raised locally will help, it’s the national exposure that has pushed Folds of Honor to where it is today — about to give out its 2,000th scholarship.
This year, Folds of Honor has partnered Budweiser, which will donate $100 for every home run hit during the 2011 Major League Baseball season. Maj. Rooney said that on a typical year, between 4,800 and 5,000 homers are hit each year. A home run tally is being kept on Budweiser’s Facebook page, and as of Friday night, that total was at 2,355, which translates to $235,000 to Folds of Honor.
In addition, Budweiser has released a special commemorative can this summer, and for each case of Budweiser sold in the United States from Memorial Day through July 10, five cents will be donated to Folds of Honor.
“Their goal is to raise a minimum of $2 million, which will translate more importantly into 400 scholarships being generated,” Maj. Rooney said. “I think it’s a great testament to the Americans who understand there’s one percent who provide the freedom for the other 99 percent, and they wanted a tangible way to say thank you.
“That’s been our big push this spring and into this summer, capping off that promotion with the event in Grand Haven.”
While the local Patriot’s Golf Day takes place in July, the national event is held over Labor Day weekend, when over 5,000 courses nationwide donate to Folds of Honor.
“It’s staggering to see the distance we’ve come from that first Patriot’s Day gathering at Grand Haven Golf Club where we started with 68 players,” Maj. Rooney said. “Last year, over that weekend, we raised $3.4 million, and this year, we’re hopeful to have 5,000 courses participate.”
This year’s Patriot’s Golf Day runs Sept. 2-5. Participating courses will be listed online at www.foldsofhonor.org.