Skinner, Fellow Pros Team Up With Amateurs For Annual LIFE Event
At least one 11-year LPGA pro-am golf tournament has been the scene for a lot of laughs, errant drives, hero putts and career-best rounds for many amateurs.
But in the case of Val Skinner’s annual tournament, called LIFE (LPGA Pros In the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer), there is also a measurable milestone of money raised for charity. The former LPGA player’s annual LIFE tournament has raised a whopping $6.3 million through 2010 that directly benefits breast cancer awareness programs.
“Having celebrity attached to your cause makes a huge, huge difference,” said Dr. Deborah L. Toppmeyer, the director of the LIFE Center at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey. “The mission of the tournament each year is to increase breast cancer awareness and through this event, the LPGA has been extraordinarily philanthropic for the last 10-plus years.”
Because of Skinner’s commitment to the cause and because each year she enlists her LPGA peers to play in the event, the annual LIFE tournament has not only become a standing date on each player’s calendar, but also a season highlight for some of the game’s top stars.
LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Karrie Webb of Australia says she has not missed playing in any of the last 11 LIFE tournaments. She played in her first event because of Skinner’s invitation, but she has played in the last 10 events because she wanted to be there.
“I feel like in some small way, I’ve given something back to help this cause,” said Webb, whose aunt is a breast cancer survivor. “Val is so passionate about it and it’s sort of contagious to be around her. This event raises around $500,000 every year on that one day.”
Webb, along with fellow hall of fame members Beth Daniel and Nancy Lopez, and current playing peers Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and Christina Kim, all have been touched in some way by the disease. And all understand why Skinner began the event after the late Heather Farr, a promising young American LPGA Tour member who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 24, lost her battle before her 29th birthday.
“Val does a good job of getting players together and rallying us for the same cause of fighting cancer,” said LPGA Tour member Nicole Castrale of California, whose mother is a 19-year breast cancer survivor. “So many of us have lost friends and family to breast cancer and it’s tragic. That’s why what Val does is so meaningful and important.”
Proceeds from the pro-am have enabled The Cancer Institute of New Jersey to build its LIFE Center, a clinical center with teams of medical specialists. It also has enabled the launch of BioCONNECT, a program that teaches high school biology students about cancer and family history with the disease.
“This science-based curriculum is used in 34 school districts across the state and we’ve educated kids that cancer is a very curable illness,” said Dr. Toppmeyer. “We’re very grateful for these funds because we would not have these initiatives without Val Skinner and the LPGA.”
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, along with the Val Skinner Foundation and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, also launched the Young Women’s Initiative. That program helps educate young women about breast cancer risks and the importance of early detection.
But along with all of the educational programs that stem from this annual day of fun on the links, comes new awareness by LPGA pros participating in the tournament. Castrale, for example, became a part of the LPGA’s “Veins For Life” team that provides information about the use of ports by patients undergoing chemotherapy. By using ports, patients may better preserve the health of their veins following extensive treatment.
“I learned about this by being involved in Val’s tournament and I’ve been able to pass along information to people who needed it,” said Castrale, a two-time U.S. Solheim Cup team member. “Being a part of this event has had an impact on my life. It’s not always about golf.”
But because of golf, amateurs and pros alike return each year for the New Jersey pro-am to raise funds for breast cancer awareness. The event has even inspired Dr. Toppmeyer to take golf lessons in an effort to better participate.
“It’s an extraordinary event and all of the pros make you feel very comfortable because their hearts are in it,” said Dr. Toppmeyer. “It’s just an incredible culmination of efforts to eradicate this terrible disease.”
For more information about the annual LIFE event, call 866-882-LIFE or visit www.valskinnerfoundation.org .