December 15, 2020

Gray’s Reef Golf Classic

December 15, 2020

Gray’s Reef Golf Classic

Jet Linx Detroit Base President Bill Royce plays a lead role in organizing the annual Gray’s Reef Golf Classic, benefiting the Blood Cancer Foundation of Michigan.

An estimated 60,000 Americans will be diagnosed with leukemia in 2020, according to the American Cancer Society. Leukemia can be characterized as a cancer of blood-forming tissues, resulting in uncontrolled growth of white blood cells in bone marrow. Many different types of leukemia exist, some affecting adults and others affecting children. While leukemia most commonly affects adults 60 and older, it is the most common cancer for children and adults younger than 20, accounting for nearly one of three cancers in that age group.

“It’s a very debilitating type of cancer, affecting all parts of the body in both children and adults,” said Bill Royce, Base President of Jet Linx Detroit. “I’ve had the good fortune to never personally experience this disease myself or in friends or family. However, I am committed to providing support to the patients and their families fighting this difficult disease.”

Royce currently serves as Vice Chair on the Board of the Blood Cancer Foundation of Michigan (BCFM), where he plays a lead role in organizing their annual golf fundraiser, The Gray’s Reef Golf Classic. Since 2006, Royce and some longtime friends have managed to raise upwards of $1.4 million for the BCFM.

“The former golf event was organized by a prominent auto dealer in the area whose father had passed away due to leukemia,” Royce explained. “For many years, my friends and I competed in the memorial tournament. When the organizer wanted to step back in 2006, my friends and I moved forward to continue running the charity event and renamed it the Gray’s Reef Golf Classic.”

Gray’s Reef is a lighthouse in Northeastern Lake Michigan, equidistant between Detroit and Chicago. Royce explained that he and a group of golfers used to participate in a separate golf tournament under the same name. Because most of the board members for the BCFM had played in that tournament, they borrowed the name to carry on the legacy.

As Vice Chair, Royce’s responsibilities include picking the venue, organizing foursomes, finding sponsors and gathering items for the live auction. “Everyone on the committee contributes to the success of the tournament. We also take care of day-of-event duties. Planning this year has been particularly challenging for many reasons.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Royce and the committee had to postpone the tournament, originally slated for Father’s Day. By moving it to late August, it allowed them time to formulate the necessary health and safety protocols, as well as fine-tune the event in order for it to remain profitable. Royce and his committee worked relentlessly to ensure that the tournament could be played safely and that adequate funds could be raised, especially at a time where charitable organizations are struggling to remain financially stable.

“Our spring fundraising season was canceled except for the golf tournament,” said Heidi Grix, President and CEO of the Blood Cancer Foundation of Michigan. “That committee, led by Bill, is so amazing. It’s the one bright spot in our fundraising right now and these guys do it every single year out of the goodness of their hearts.” Grix explained that her team provides whatever support that Royce and his friends may need, but the administrators at BCFM take care of only small details. The bulk of the work remains with Royce and other board members.

Fortunately, the game of golf comes with built-in social distancing, but there were many other challenges that Royce and the committee faced in event planning. “We had to move our charity auction online and we moved our post-tournament dinner outside,” Royce said. “Another change was that we typically invite a patient to speak at the event, but because these people are high-risk, we opted for a pre-recorded video from a past patient that benefited from the services of the BCFM. The last thing we’d ever want to do is put these people in harm’s way.”

Curtis Scott, a cancer survivor and motivational speaker, drove home the impact of the BCFM in his pre-recorded video. At 48 years old, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. As a perfectly healthy individual and successful operating engineer, his life was upended.

“When you get diagnosed and you receive an expiration date from the doctor,” Scott revealed, “That’s devastating. But with the support of the BCFM, I am living proof that their mission is working. I found my way out of a dark tunnel with their encouragement and support, but I’m not the only success story. There were others before me and there will be more after me. Your donations do matter, especially at a time like this.”

The Gray’s Reef Golf Classic raises nearly 10% of the BCFM’s annual income, and in a difficult year where many other events have been canceled, it’s even more important. Grix explained that the BCFM experienced a greater increase in requests for aid in 2020, the results of economic fallout amidst a global health crisis.

“When people are close to the margins and then illness happens, they’re pushed even closer to the edge,” Grix advised. “Our goal is to keep them stable during their illness and prevent them and their families from falling through the cracks. This charity event happened at a time to help our patients that need it right now.”

Even amidst challenging times, the Gray’s Reef Golf Classic delivered for the BCFM. More than 130 golfers convened at Plum Hollow Country Club, raising upwards of $110,000 that will immediately help the 3,200+ patients and 10,000+ family members that BCFM serves each year throughout Michigan. In total, the event in 2020 raised 20% more funds than previous years – a bright spot in a difficult year for so many.

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