Mint Hill Golfers tee it up to help Sandbox

Mike Fitzgerald (orange shirt) and his playing partners ham it up on the golf course.
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A large contingent of golfers teed it up for a good time at Pine Lake Country Club on Thursday, Oct. 19 but charity was the big winner at the 15th annual charity event sponsored by the Mint Hill chapter of BNI (Business Network International). Woodforest Bank was the main sponsor of the tournament.

Proceeds from the event went to the Sandbox of Charlotte. The Sandbox is an organization that helps families face their child’s cancer or life-altering illness. Golfers were treated to lunch before the tournament and golfers were treated to a reception and raffle, which also benefitted the Sandbox, following the event.

Tournament director Mike Fitzgerald of the Mint Hill BNI said the organization has been hosting a charity golf tournament since its inception.

“BNI is an international networking group and we have been running a tournament every year and this is our sixth year at the Pine Lake Country Club,” Fitzgerald said. “Each year we have a charity that we work with. Sandbox is an organization that works with terminally ill children. As soon as this tournament is over, we will start planning for the following year.”

CARRE, or Caring About Real Relationships Empathetically, is The Sandbox’s approach for delivering services to families who have children with cancer or life-altering illnesses. The CARRE program invites families from the time of the child’s diagnosis or referral through the course of the illness and beyond.

Sandbox’s motto is it is all about CARRE.

The CARRE services are managed by a CARRE Team, which empowers families on their healthcare journey by providing evaluations, education, resources, connections and opportunities. This team, comprised of a Medical Director, Care Manager, Team Leaders and their team, is in constant communication with the Honoree’s family. This customized approach to serving families allows each one to receive The Sandbox services that are most needed in their unique situation.

“We help families in North Carolina and South Carolina,” said Wendy Becker of the Sandbox. “We find out what their needs are. It could be anything from paying a bill or they just need a fun experience to look forward to. We walk this journey with them.

“Something that is unique is if that child were to pass, that family is always one of our families and we will serve them forever.”

Fitzgerald’s son, Thomas, died from a bone marrow disease 17 years ago and he said the Sandbox provides a helping hand to area families.

“I had a son die from a bone marrow disease back in 2000, but that was before the Sandbox existed,” Fitzgerald said. “If they had been around when my son was sick my life would have been less complicated. They provide a lot of services for families. Most of all, if a child or family member should pass, they are encouraged to stay a par of Sandbox.

“Having been through what these families are going through, I can relate and understand what it is like to have an organization like Sandbox to assist the family.”

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Paul Nielsen
Nielsen was a sports writer for what is now the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for nearly 32 years before moving to North Carolina in February 2016. At the Democrat-Gazette, Nielsen’s primary responsibility was beat coverage for Rogers High School. Rogers is a Class 7A school located in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen, a University of Arkansas graduate, covered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals Minor League Baseball team from 2008-2015. The Naturals are the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Nielsen has experience covering University of Arkansas athletics, including NCAA Tournament basketball games and several football bowl games. He also covered amateur and professional golf tournaments in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen lives in Matthews with his wife, Susan. He can be reached at