NHL stars shine at 'Celebrity Classic'

The guest list features multiple Stanley Cup Champions, an NHL team owner, Olympic Gold Medallists and a host of NHL stars, all gathered at the Harvest Golf Club for one of the biggest fundraisers in Kelowna this year.

The 2012 Sandman Harvest Celebrity Golf Classic returned this year after taking last year off.  The event has annually drawn a who's who of the Okanagan along with some of the biggest names in the NHL.

The event has been a huge success through the years, raising over $1.2 million since its debut 16 years ago.

The Sandman Harvest Foundation’s mandate is to provide assistance to medically, emotionally and physically disadvantaged children living in the Okanagan Valley.

The foundation assists in the expenses associated with travel, accommodation, and incidentals that a family or individual may incur while seeking medical attention for their child.

The foundation has also contributed funds to hospitals so that specialized rooms for children can be built.

The tournament was first held in 1996 after a chance meeting between Vancouver Canuck star Greg Adams and Tom Gaglardi, now the owner of the Dallas Stars.

Galardi also owns the Sandman Hotels, Inns & Suites, Moxie's Classic Grill, Denny's Restaurants, Shark Clubs, and Chop.

"This tournament started when I played at the Sandman charity event in Castlegar, and I was paired with Greg Adams in a group," says Gaglardi. The pair would strike up a friendship and eventually Gaglardi broached the idea of hosting a tournament with Adams.

"So we decided to discuss having a tournament, and he said 'I'm going to introduce you to Gilles Dufort at the Harvest Golf Club.' So I sat down with Gilles and that's how the tournament was born."

Adams would lend his name to the tournament and work tirelessly with the many volunteers for the next 10 years.

"We've had great sponsorship and great participants that have showed up every year and supported this tournament. It's just such a fun event."

One of those regulars is Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who took time off from his summer training to enjoy a couple of rounds of golf at the Harvest.

"It's been a big event for a number of years," says Iginla. "It's a lot of fun to play in and you see a lot of familiar faces. Everyone together can raise a lot of money, it's first class, for sure."

On Monday night, Iginla and the rest of the participants were able to see first hand where the money they donate is going.

The Sandman Harvest Foundation made a special presentation by announcing donations of $50,000 each to the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation and the YM-YWCA Strong Kids Campaign Foundation.

The last five years, former Kelowna Rocket and current member of the Colorado Avalanche, Chuck Kobasew has served as the Honorary Chairman and he was pleased to see the large turnout once again.

"We're very fortunate here, we have a lot of very generous people," says Kobasew. "They all know where it (the money) goes to and what it means to those families."

Despite the sunny skies and good times that were evident during the first day of the event, there is a dark cloud looming.

For Kobasew, this will be his last year with the tournament and organizers are now hoping one of the many NHL stars who call Kelowna home will step up in time for next year and keep the event rolling.

Without that signature name linked to the event, organizers say this year could be the last.

However, Harvest GM Gilles Dufort says the committee is determined to keep the event alive.

"We realized that we are doing a whole lot of good for children in the community. We believe that this is a great vehicle to help youth and children in need in the Okanagan," says Dufort.

"We've been a sellout for 16 years, so this has a strong possibility of continuing successfully not only for next year, but for years to come."

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