Golf tourney to make smiles

Proceeds help low-income children get dental care

Tom Knez can't bear to know that children are going to bed at night with toothaches.

But those in need of dental care can get help paying for those costs if people sign up to play golf at the upcoming Yahoo Golf Tournament.

"For a little kid not to be able to get a tooth fixed is wrong," Knez said. "Somebody should be able to step forward and help out."

Proceeds from the event go toward a fund to help low-income children get the dental care they need through Northwest Colorado Dental Care, a clinic offered by the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition.

"This is going to touch many, many lives," said Debi Harmon, director of the coalition. "People can help in the town just by buying the golf balls."

Five teams of two are needed to round out the golf tournament scheduled for Sept. 17 at Yampa Valley Golf Course. But anyone can purchase golf balls that will be used in a raffle. Golf balls will be dropped from an airplane near a target on the course. The person who purchased the golf ball that lands closest to the target will win a big-screen television valued at $1,500. Other door prizes and cash prizes are available.

Knez started the Yahoo Golf Tournament in 2001 in memory of his brother Ralph Knez, who was killed in a tractor accident. A couple of years later, Dan Severson wanted the memory of his father, Jim Severson, included in the tournament.

Both men loved to play golf, Knez and Severson said.

Turning something sad into a benefit for the community was a natural transition, they said. And one thing both men agree on is helping children.

"Tom and I both absolutely love kids," Severson said. "We do it to benefit the kids."

Harmon said proceeds from the event would help uninsured families pay for dental care. The clinic serves infants to 21-year-olds who qualify for Medicaid or Colorado Health Plan Plus in a five-county area of Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Jackson and Grand counties. Other low-income families can get assistance by paying for treatment on a sliding scale. But even those reduced costs could be a hindrance for some families to receive help, Harmon said.

"Having dental problems is not like a cold, it doesn't go away," she said. "What may have originally started as prevention for a small cavity at $80 could be as much as $500 if a child needs to have a full root canal. We don't want cost to be a deterrent."

"Our clinic isn't for free, but we'll definitely make sure that somebody using the fund really needs it," Harmon added.

The Boys & Girls Club of Craig benefited about $3,000 from proceeds of last year's tournament. Giving to the dental coalition this year keeps the mission of the tournament and the memory of loved ones in tact, Knez said.

"I'm sure wherever they're at looking down, they're saying 'Hey, that's OK,'" he said.

Amy Hamilton can be reached at 824-7031 or ahamilton@craigdailypress.com

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