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Huge donation brings Golf Team up to par
Monday, June 15, 2009
The motto that built a company named Belfor Restoration Services is “Do the right thing, even when no-one is looking.” Interestingly enough, Maricopa Coach Mike Russoniello preaches the same motto to his golfers. People interceded to bring them together to accomplish something great. Through the heart of a couple of coaches, the drive of a corporation to serve, and the expertise and good will of a sporting goods store, the Maricopa Golf Team was the recipient of a $5000 donation this past spring. Coach Mike couldn’t be more ecstatic.
“These kids have been working with substandard equipment for four years,” he stated. First, they supplied most of their own equipment. A set of decent clubs is expensive, and most worked with hand-me-downs. How difficult it would be to learn the correct swing, with the correct body movement, handhold, and proper amount of power, using mismatched clubs of all different sizes and weights – well, one can only imagine.
Then there was the psychological drawback. Picture competing on a renowned course, against a team with fitted uniforms and bags filled with proper equipment. Out comes Maricopa like the Bad News Bears. They have two golf bags bought with funds from car washes, and the coach has put together the best sets he could from their mishmash of equipment. Girls are wearing boys’ uniform shirts, and shirts are the only part of the uniform any of them have. Kids are competing in sneakers and hauling Grandpa’s golf clubs. “They felt second-best before they ever started,” said Russoniello. “And there were some injuries, resulting from using clubs that were the wrong size or type. It’s difficult to teach kids to love the sport under such conditions.”
Peter Moreno, a national adjuster for Crawford Technical Services and Maricopa resident, was a regular golfer at The Duke. After watching Mike struggling alone, he decided to lend a hand. “Poor Mike,” he remembered, “would have kids working on several different disciplines with nobody to oversee them. I had the time and the experience.” He also had contacts. First he became an assistant coach. Then he persuaded Mike to write a request letter, and submitted it to business partner Tony Fowler, Senior Project Manager for Belfor. “You should have seen that letter,” said Fowler. “It literally made me cry.”
Belfor Property Restoration is considered world-leading in fire and water damage restoration, and provides other recovery and emergency planning services worldwide. Perhaps their amazing donation record is due to the fact that they work daily to provide aid in times of great need. According to Project Manager Anthony Piazza who works with Fowler, they do not actively seek donation recipients; but they are always on the lookout for worthy causes.
Fowler shared the letter with Warren Lindell, the deciding voice at the Belfor Phoenix office. According to Piazza, his response was, “Tell me what you need.” Mike then worked with PGA professional Lyn Hansen of Dick’s Sporting Goods, located on Emerald Drive in Tempe, and put together a ‘wish list,’ and within a few short days, the donation was official. The store also gave them a tidy discount to stretch the funds even further. The first installment was delivered on April 15, in time for the kids to compete in their last scheduled meets.
“You would not believe the difference,” enthused Coach Mike. “One of my boys started driving so well he asked how he could get to use these clubs full time. I answered, ‘You know that D? Make it a C.’ He put in the work and got the club. And he’s committed to returning next year.” In fact, several are returning, and with proper equipment for a whole season, who knows what they’ll do. Piazza is sticking around to find out. “Belfor may be interested in other Maricopa projects,” he commented. “I am going to be looking around on their behalf. Personally, I would like to watch these kids next year, maybe revisit the team in two or three years, to see just how much difference this equipment makes.”
There are some changes taking place for the golf team. They will compete in the fall season instead of spring, which means they’ll be hard at it come August. They will also have a second course to practice on. Southern Dunes Golf Club, located on State Route 238, has offered their facility to Maricopa Schools. Their terrain is substantially different from The Duke’s, and will offer students much more experience. Coach Russoniello is planning two summer golf camps to get interested students off to a good start. As of this writing, the dates were not available, but you can call the District Office, Athletic Director Mike Larson, or Public Relations Director Tom Beckett for assistance.