Stroke of Genius: Golfers Use Donor Advised Fund To Fight Cancer

You could call them the marathon men of golf foursomes.

In 1993, Harold Yahr, Bill Dahn, Ernie Peters and Jeff Lichter launched an event they called the Longest Day of Golf to raise money for organizations that fight cancer.

After collecting pledges from contributors, who paid either per hole or as a flat amount, they set about playing as many holes of golf as possible in one day. That so far has turned out to be 120 holes – the equivalent of more than six typical rounds of golf – a record they set in 2010.

Since 1993, they have surpassed 1,800 golf holes played, amounting to over 230 hours to play. They select a day as close as possible to the “Longest Day” of the year – summer solstice – and play from around 7:30 a.m. through 8:30 p.m., as long as their bodies and available daylight endure.

To keep the group’s interest level high, they alternate the format of their game between own ball, two-player better ball, two-player alternate shot and speed golf (during their record round, in 1998, they shot an 88 in 56 minutes.)

Sometimes, they play with a limit of three clubs drawn randomly for each hole.

“When you play a 492-yard par 5 with only a 6-iron, a 9-iron and a wedge, it takes you a while to get to the green, let alone deciding which club to putt with,” Yahr noted.

The tradition has been made possible through the long established partnership of the Meadowlands Country Club in Blue Bell, Pa.

The club has allowed them to linger on the links from sunup to sundown, even when the course was being reconstructed in 2008. Meadowlands also arranges for the carts that allow the players a short rest as they travel between shots and holes during their 12-plus hours of play.

They've been known to complete seven trips around the course during the day. Through the dedication, stamina and formidable solicitation efforts of the foursome, The Longest Day of Golf has raised over $330,000 to fight cancer – and counting.

The $1,500 raised the first year has grown to almost $20,000 annually.

"Our physical effort pales in comparison to what cancer patients and their friends and family must endure through their respective battles," Yahr said. "We can only hope that we help increase the number of cancer survivors who are with us next year."

Over time, the players wanted to make sure several charities could simultaneously benefit from their effort each year, allowing them more flexibility in distributing the funds raised. So in 2004, the foursome decided to establish The Longest Day of Golf Cancer Fund at The Philadelphia Foundation.

The Foundation manages the Donor Advised Fund and distributes the proceeds as grants to organizations that fight cancer.

“A colleague who is a CPA had suggested I check out community foundations,” said Yahr, who founded the event and is vice president of corporate taxation and accounting for an international flavor company. “I did research on the options that led me to The Philadelphia Foundation, and it has worked out very well. I’ve recommended The Philadelphia Foundation to several others.”

The fund allows each fund advisor the flexibility to request grants for the charity most important to him.

Almost $210,000 has been granted through the LDG Cancer Fund to organizations including the American Cancer Society, Fox Chase Cancer Center and the Department of Urology Research Fund at St. Vincent’s Hospital-Manhattan.

“We issued one grant to Fighting Children’s Cancer Foundation, a charity that deals with families of children with cancer who have experienced financial difficulties and provides assistance with basic household expenses,” Yahr said. “I always thought how unfair it is of this disease to rob a child of the experiences we all take for granted.”

Grants from the fund also have supported the Child Life Program at St. Barnabas Medical Center through the Hannah Peretsman Breene Foundation, established in memory of Hannah, a neighbor of Bill Dahn, who lost her six-year battle with cancer in 2004 at age 16.

By establishing the Longest Day Fund at The Philadelphia Foundation, the money raised that year could be set aside until the Breene Foundation had been established and could receive it. The LDG Cancer Fund plans to begin a new relationship with the Cancer Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and recommend its first grant to CHOP in 2012.

The intrepid golfers are looking forward to celebrating their 20th anniversary.

Althnough Ernie Peters is unavailable due to a schedule conflict, Dave Fitts will fill his shoes for the 2012 event.

“We continue to be driven by the collective hope and mission to see a cure for cancer in our lifetimes, and to see more cancer survivors each successive year,” Yahr said. “I’m confident, with the continued drive and philanthropic effort of my fellow LDG Cancer Fund volunteers, that we can make a difference.”

To contribute to the Longest Day of Golf Cancer Fund or any fund at The Philadelphia Foundation, go online to www.philafound.org.

 

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