It was one of those really late night conversations - the kind that happens when family and friends get together and a crazy idea comes up that gets everyone excited. Typically, the next morning, the enthusiasm is considerably lessened and the "plans" made the night before are forgotten as everyone gets back to their daily routines.
But not this time. The Maple siblings and spouses were together for the holidays, the first without their mother, Judy, who had passed away just eight months before after a long battle with cancer. There was lots of reminiscing, laughter and some tears as they got through the first Christmas without her. When the discussion turned to what could be done to remember and honor Judy, the idea of raising and donating money to worthy causes was agreed upon unanimously. From here, the Judy Maple Golf Classic was born.
It was decided that each year a recipient would be chosen to receive the bulk of the proceeds from the outing. It would be a cause, organization or business that helped families dealing with serious illness and/or helped educate, support and provide important services to those facing cancer or other disease. It would be a group that the siblings felt would have been one that Judy herself believed in.
Golf outings are not especially exciting but this one was to be different. After working out some kinks in its inaugural year, 2005, the outing began to grow. It became the weekend for many to come back to the area and see family, former high school classmates and teachers. It became the outing known for great prizes - since the Maple siblings were geographically spread out among Tampa, Cleveland, Columbus, Jacksonville and Toronto and worked in various fields, their pool from which to get support and donations was large. The outing also became a fun and relaxed, yet very organized and efficient one as each sibling and their spouse took the "area" assigned to them and made it better each year. (The natural Maple competitiveness lent well to this end.) Take all of this and add in the friendly, supportive, amazingly organized staff at Spring Hills Golf Course who worked their magic behind the scenes and you've got quite an annual event - a day that one golfer described as, "my favorite day besides Christmas."
Since 2005, the Judy Maple Foundation has given more than $100,000 locally. Major recipients include the Tony Teramana Cancer Center, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Valley Hospice, the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center, Charity Hospice and, this year, the Women In Action Against Cancer Coalition. In addition, an annual scholarship is awarded each year at Edison High School, the school where all the Maple siblings graduated and the district where Judy Maple worked. Throughout the years, various other local organizations have benefited from JMF donations, including the Urban Mission, where the foundation "adopted" kids at Christmas time and purchased them bikes, clothing and gifts. The City Rescue Mission's annual children's Christmas party received a JMF donation to help buy presents and also used a donation another year to help get the homeless shelter back up and running. Many local families suffering from a fire, illness or other tragedy have been supported with financial gifts as well.
As the Judy Maple Foundation prepares to celebrate 10 years of local giving, the Maple siblings, Cindy, Dave, Criss, Kevin, Steve and Jennifer, all still very much believe in its mission and the goals that were set out during that first conversation years ago. And even though the foundation and the golf outing have evolved and changed over the years, their original purpose has remained the same - to honor and pay tribute to Judy Maple and give back to the community in her name.
The 2014 Judy Maple Golf Classic will be held July 19 at Spring Hills Golf Course. For information, to make a donation or to book a team at this year's event, call Dave Maple at (740) 424-8432 or Steve Maple at (614) 561-5402.
(Maple-Damewood is a resident of Toronto.)