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Since 1960, the FedEx St. Jude Classic has been a great partner for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
From its first donation of $600 in 1960, when the PGA TOUR stop was known as the Memphis Open, to its record $1 million gifts in recent years, the FedEx St. Jude Classic has been one of the crown jewels in St. Jude's relationships with sporting events.
But those gifts that FESJC tournament officials present to the hospital each year do not magically happen. It is possible only through the hard work and dedication of more than 1,800 volunteers who contribute more than 25,000 hours of their time to the tournament each year.
"We could not produce the tournament without the volunteers," said Phil Cannon, FESJC tournament director. "They completely run, produce, manage, operate and facilitate the tournament in every aspect."
"It is something that is invisible to those in attendance," Cannon said, "but it is what ensures that the tournament takes place. We have a very small staff, and our job during the tournament is to get out of the way. They (the volunteers) take the ball and run with it. It is a real labor of love."
Most of the volunteers devote seven days out of the year to make sure the tournament runs smoothly. Some are volunteering for their first tournament. Others have been volunteering at the event for 45 years—almost since the tournament's inception. And that devotion spills over to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, because without those volunteers taking the tickets, lining off the greens or working the grandstands (just to name a few duties), those gifts to St. Jude wouldn't happen.
Joe Robertson began volunteering at the FESJC around 1997, using his experience in the health and safety fields to ensure the players and fans have a clean environment and that the players have plenty of water in the Memphis heat and humidity.
"Coming to Memphis in 1993, I became more and more familiar with the St. Jude philosophy that 'no child should die in the dawn of life,'" he said. And that, combined with knowing he had healthy children, prompted Robertson to donate his time. He recently even got his wife to volunteer as well.
But in the past couple of years, the volunteer work he does has been more significant. That's because Robertson eventually became employed at St. Jude in 2001 in the Environmental Health and Safety area.
"It has enhanced my feeling of volunteering," Robertson said about working at St. Jude after years of volunteering at the FESJC. "Last year, it hit home, more so than just by being affiliated with the tournament. I see all the good things that we do for the kids."
Doug Miller is the new kid on the greens. Having lived in Memphis since 1992, he always attended the golf tournament. And, he said, he always wanted to help out, but his schedule would never allow it.
This year was different, though. This year, Miller had a chance to be part of the FESJC sales team that sells ticket packages to corporate partners. It was an experience he loved.
"This was my first year. I really had a good time doing it," he said. "I wish I could spend more time with it. And it's obviously a great cause. I feel like I contributed at least a little bit for St. Jude."
For an hour or so each day for almost a month-and-a-half, Miller would make his sales calls. "It's a pretty easy sell," he said. "Everyone knows St. Jude when you call them up."
Cannon said that the volunteers make his job as tournament director a bit easier because it takes a little of the worry from his mind. "How the gears all mesh and how it all gets done is phenomenal," he said. "There are things that happen now that I don't know how they happened."
"The volunteers who work that FedEx St. Jude Classic are priceless," said Richard C. Shadyac, chief executive officer of ALSAC, the hospital's fund-raising arm. "Without their dedication and support—some of them for four decades—this would just be another golf tournament. But because of them, children are alive today that might not have had a chance before."