Steve Monteleone had an idea -- host a golf outing to raise money for fellow disabled veterans.
Little did the seven-year Air Force veteran from Oakland Township know that the golf outing would explode in popularity and that he would end up starting a nonprofit organization, It's All About the Warrior.
"I had done golf outings in the past, so I thought this would be a great idea. As we started planning, it just sort of took off and before we knew it, it exploded," he said.
An avid golfer, Mr. Monteleone, 47, started planning that initial golf outing about a year ago.
In his efforts to create a successful event, he enlisted the help of some of his friends, including a PGA golf pro at the Olde Stonewall Golf Club in Ellwood City, Sean Swidzinski.
As they started planning the outing -- to be held at the Olde Stonewall -- the response was overwhelming.
"We had three-fourths of the field sold out in a couple of days. People kept asking us, 'How can I help?' 'What can I do?' " said Mr. Swidzinski.
Mr. Swidzinski said it soon became clear to him that people wanted to support the cause.
"I said to Steve, 'Just so you know, this is going to be bigger than a golf tournament,' " he said.
Mr. Monteleone said, "We thought it would be a good idea, but never in a million years did we think it would turn out like this."
That golf tournament was held June 23 and raised more than $50,000, said Mr. Monteleone. It was also the start of It's All About the Warrior.
"We realized that we could really make an impact for our veterans in Western Pennsylvania," Mr. Monteleone said. In addition to being the founder, Mr. Monteleone serves as president and Mr. Swidzinski is vice president. Other board members are Chad Neigh, Dave Korn, Rich Johns and Patrick Hammonds.
The mission of the organization is to assist post-9/11 veterans. Since the foundation is in its infancy -- to use Mr. Monteleone's words -- it is still organizing services but used some of the initial funds to assist four veterans and their families.
Mike Cramer, 30, of Brentwood was one of them. A disabled Marine veteran who served from 2001-06, Mr. Cramer said he was a guest for the golf outing.
"It was such a great time, and then they had a dinner for us," he said. Mr. Cramer's wife, Amanda, attended the dinner, and both were surprised when they were recognized and honored at the event. The foundation also gave the Cramers a monetary contribution.
"Those guys are amazing. They know what we have been through and made us feel really special. I think they will do all kinds of good things," he said.
It is the organization's long-term goal to create a facility in Butler County where veterans can go for rehabilitative, social and recreational services.
Mr. Monteleone works full time as a teacher with the Department of Defense outreach program, Starbase Atlantis Pittsburgh Academy in North Versailles where he teaches math and science. Mr. Swidzinski is the full-time golf pro at Olde Stonewall, so their work with the foundation -- along with the other board members -- is all volunteer work.
"It does take up a lot of time, but it is worth it," said Mr. Monteleone.
Mr. Swidzinski agreed, "I didn't know this is what I was getting into when we first started, but I told Steve, 'I'm with you.' I'll do anything I can to help."
Since the initial golf outing, the organization has hosted a holiday fundraiser and has several other events planned such as a bowling classic March 17 at Family Bowl-Away in Butler and a 5-K Walk/Run May 26 at North Park. The second annual gold tournament will be held June 22. Information: www.iatwf.us.neigh_north
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org