The price of American freedom, the realities of building a non-profit empire and the generous community that started it all seemed clear-cut as more than 240 golfers took to the course in support of the families of those killed or disabled in military action.
"I tell those that play, it is the most heroic round of the year, no matter how you play," said Folds of Honor founder and CEO Maj. Dan Rooney. "It is such a unifying cause. It isn't about red or blue, it is about Red, White and Blue.
"Our country is so divided, but people still come together to support the 0.45 percent of our citizens and their families who serve in the military.
"Grand Haven is so near and dear to me and my family's hearts. The numbers put it in perspective. A small seed planted here at the Grand Haven Golf Club has grown to change the lives of thousands of children and spouses of those killed or disabled defending our freedom."
The growth that turned a small tournament in Grand Haven into the NASCAR Folds of Honor/Quick Trip 500 and a special-release Budweiser Folds of Honor Freedom Reserve beer reached new heights this year in its core mission — scholarships.
Next week, Folds of Honor will award over 4,000 scholarships adding up to around $21 million, making it 20,000 scholarships for more than $115 million since the original tournament in Grand Haven in 2006.
This year's record-setting totals are due in large part to unprecedented efficiency by the foundation, which improved on their already clandestine reputation to earn a four-star rating by Charity Navigator.
The rating is based on two scores and was published May 1. Folds of Honor earned a 100.00 score for accountability and transparency and a 97.50 financial score to earn its four stars for the fiscal year 2016.
The financial score is tabulated using performance metrics like program expenses, administrative expenses, fundraising expenses and efficiency, working capital ratio, liabilities to assets, and program expenses growth. The accountability and transparency performance metrics function as an attribute checklist looking for independent voting board members, audited financials by independent accountants, documented board meeting minutes, conflict of interest and whistleblower policies and listed CEO salaries provided on a 990 form, as well as easily accessible information on the charity's website, among others.
The rating is the best possible from the non-profit watchdog organization. Paired with its perfect platinum rating on Guidestar, the two distinctions distinguish the Folds of Honor as one of the most efficient non-profits in the country.
"Those two are the primary watchdog organizations making sure nonprofits are doing business like they should be," Rooney said. "When you give a dollar, you want to make sure that it is going to what you think it is. You want to make sure it is actually benefitting the cause."
The honesty is typical of the Folds of Honor and Rooney, which is fiercely dedicated to the day in, day out operations of his rapidly growing charity.
"We had the biggest year ever and we are doing it more efficiently than ever, those are the success standards we look at," he said. "There are two numbers that matter — the number of scholarships we can give out and the amount of money we can share. Those are what matter."
The state of the foundation in 2018 is something to behold, even in the eyes of its founder and CEO.
"To go from 67 people in 2006, to having Anheuser-Busch as our biggest sponsor, along with a NASCAR event, a partnership with the PGA and USGA and over 1,000 golf courses hosting events over Labor Day weekend is really something," Rooney said. "All those people have helped amplify our voice.
"The only thing I know for sure on this journey is there is something way more powerful than us in control. It has been a total God thing. The Holy Spirit has been the connective tissue of what we do here."
As for the future of the foundation, Rooney plans to continue to take things one day at a time.
"I'm not a big goal setter," he said. "We are very process driven. We will keep getting up early and working seven days a week and stay in the fight and see where God takes us.
"We start over in a week and a half, because we get to give all the money away."
After its more than 4,000 scholarships are awarded next week, attention turns to the national event coming up over Labor Day when thousands of courses will hold Folds of Honor events, contributing typically between $5 million and $7 million to the cause.
If you missed the event at Grand Haven Golf Club, contributions can always be made at Foldsofhonor.org.
"Ultimately, it grows because people care," Rooney said. "This is all about family members of those KIA or disabled. Freedom isn't free."