"Garfing’ for a good cause | VailDaily.com

"Garfing’ for a good cause

Sarah Dixon

That seemed to be the thing to do in Lionshead recently for a crowd of locals decked out in creative golf outfits in Lionshead.

“It’s all for a good cause, and we’re having fun while we’re at it,” said mini-golfer Allison Hohn.

Aptly titled Golf “n’ Garf, the event was hosted June 27 by Garfinkel’s Bar. Teams of locals battled it out not only for the first to score a hole in one, but for the title of best-dressed golfer.

Proceeds, meanwhile, went a kayak camp conducted by First Descents, an organization founded by local professional kayaker Brad Ludden and held in Vail this August for the second year.

The camp sponsors young cancer patients for a week of kayaking, hiking and general empowerment through the rush of being outdoors in the Rockies, Ludden says.

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“It empowers these kids to experience control over their current situations,” said First Descents supporter “Matty C.” “While they’re out here, they’re not being tested and prodded and treated. They’re being exposed to something that hopefully distracts them from their worries.”

“It’s as much about local awareness as it is about anything else,” added the event’s emcee, Ken Hoeve. “This is an event where locals turn out to fund a camp they believe in. Last year the Garfinkel’s bartenders even donated their tip jar to the camp.”

Ludden, 21, said he founded the camp to give something back.

“I felt a need to do more, to share my experience and the lessons I’ve learned, both in life and in kayaking,” he said.

The camp has been a perfect outlet for the young athlete, Ludden said, allowing him to combine his talents and his philanthropic nature to help bring strength and hope to the young attendees.

“It was so amazing to see everything it brought to them each day, how much the kids changed every day they were out there,” Ludden said.

Others agreed, expressing their support for a local cause.

“I think one of the really special things about the camp is the way it empowers these young people,” added Matty C. “They experience the personal power of kayaking and doing well in something so exciting – even if they’re not doing well with their health.”

Fun, meanwhile, is the theme at Golf “n’ Garf, sponsored by Sam Adams beer, which providing free kegs of their Summer Ale brew.

“The more beer you chug, the more money we’re getting for these kids,” said Hoeve to a cheering, chugging crowd.

Hoeve had other inventive ways to raise money for the kids.

“We’re gonna auction Brad Ludden off to the highest bidder – but he doesn’t know it yet, so don’t blow our cover.”

The fund-raising goal for this summer’s camp has been met, Ludden said. Even so, he and others are working toward an even larger goal.

“In the past, we’ve hosted one youth camp,” Ludden said. “Our plan is to raise $100,000 in order to expand the program to two youth camps and a breast cancer camp next year.”

Judging by the turnout at Garfinkel’s Thursday, this goal has a good chance of being fulfilled.

“We really thank our sponsors, donors and those that helped with fund-raising to make this camp a reality,” Ludden said. “First Descents is the most important thing to me. When everything else is gone, it will still be here. It is my primary focus.”

As the mini-golf teams took to the course, it seemed everyone was truly enjoying the process of raising money for the camp.

“I’m gonna drink beer tonight anyway. I’m just happy to be doing it for such a good cause,” said one participant. “I just hope I don’t hurt anyone with a wild swing.”

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