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Tribal golf tournament turns fun into cash for charities

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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Four Coachella Valley charities benefitting local kids took home an extra $80,000 when Richard M. Milanovich, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, presented each of the groups with proceeds from the tribe’s recent celebrity golf tournament.

Four separate checks for $20,000 each went to the Sunup Rotary Shoes That Fit Program, the Palm Springs Boys and Girls Club, the Cathedral City Boys and Girls Club, and the Coachella Valley Autism Society.

The checks are a result of the May celebrity golf tournament at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort. More than 30 celebrities joined golfers, including supermodel and actress Beverly Johnson, NFL stars Marshall Faulk, Dokie Williams, and Christian Okoye, as well as baseball legends Johnny Bench and Jermaine Dye.

“The tribal council is deeply grateful to be able to lend a hand,” Milanovich said. “Our goal this year was to select groups which have done exceptional work in helping youth transform into strong leaders; the kind of adults who understand the necessity of contributing to the greater good.”

The Palm Springs Rotary Shoes That Fit program has given more than 37,000 pairs of shoes to school kids, according to the group’s Chief Financial Officer Doug Calvin, who said the tribe has been responsible for supplying nearly 40 percent of the shoes. The group launched the program to save children from the embarrassment and discomfort of attending school with old, worn and ill-fitting shoes.

The Coachella Valley’s Autism Society has been serving an ever-expanding group of youngsters, said Board Member Diane Russom. New cases of autism in California have ballooned from more than 6,600 reported in 1998 to more than 53,000 in 2008.

The organization, which serves 400 local families, will use the proceeds to pay for social recreation classes that teach autistic children how to successfully navigate typical social interactions in classrooms and in public.

In addition, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Springs and Cathedral City, which give kids a safe social environment to interact in after school, have received thousands of dollars of assistance from the tribe over the past 15 years. The program helps keep youth out of trouble, and involved with positive role models.

Scott Robinson, executive director of the Cathedral City Boys and Girls Club, said the tribe’s donation will allow the club to pay for teen intervention programs and a curriculum that helps youth make smart choices.

The tournament fundraiser, which was held for the first time this year, will be repeated and expanded next year, tribal officials said.