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Celebrity event, Raley’s to aid fire victims

At one point NBC considered canceling tournament,

but city wanted it to go on

By Steve Yingling

Tribune sports editor

As the longest-running celebrity only golf tournament in the world, the American Century Championship has developed a tight bond with the South Shore community.

In wake of last week’s devastating Angora fire, the ACC is taking the opportunity to reciprocate for an 18-year welcome mat. Tournament officials announced on Monday morning a $25,000 contribution by NBC and American Century Investments to the wildfire relief fund.

In addition, Raley’s announced that it will match customer donations up to $100,000. The 130-grocery store chain in Northern California and Northern Nevada has set up donation boxes at each of its checkstands and will keep them in place through end of July. To date, Raley’s customers have contributed $50,000 for fire victims.

“It’s been a tragic time. Fortunately, life must go on,” said Nancy McGagin, executive director for Raley’s year-round food for families program. “People have lost their homes, let’s not allow them to lose their jobs. It’s fabulous the golf tournament is going on as planned.”

The Angora fire destroyed 254 structures, burned more than 3,000 acres and caused more than $150 million in property damage since igniting on June 24. As of Sunday night, the fire was 95 percent contained.

NBC considered canceling the July 13-15 tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course but was encouraged by community business leaders to continue plans for the 54-hole tournament that attracts a cache of stars, including Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Ladainian Tomlinson, Ray Romano and Don Cheadle.

“The last thing we wanted to do was hold it in the face of a growing tragedy,” said Jon Miller, executive vice president of NBC Sports. “We want to be there in more than our usual capacity. For all three days of telecast we will be broadcasting an 800 number, doing PSAs and interviews. We feel terrible what happened but we want to be part of the solution to help this area rebuild from this tragedy.”

Defending champion Jack Wagner, who has played in all 17 previous championships, sees this year’s event as a means to help repay a long-term debt.

“Everybody playing in the tournament is very grateful to playing golf, playing on TV and be up there in Lake Tahoe. It’s an opportunity to give back to a community that has given so much to this tournament,” he said.

Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, has assisted with local hockey camps and fought the elimination of school sports in his hometown, but aiding the Angora fire victims is his most significant charitable project.

“Nothing where homes have been damaged and lives changed in a one-week period,” he said. “For me and all the athletes, we’re looking forward to coming out there and bringing joy. Not the joy of the winning, but me hitting the ball in the trees and Charles (Barkley) swinging.”


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