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'TOYS FOR TOTS' TOURNAMENT BENEFITS CHILDREN

Sept. 18, 2002 – The St. Croix Marine Corps Association will hold the 7th Annual "Toys For Tots" Golf Tournament at the Carambola Golf Course on Sunday, Oct. 6. The format will be a 4-person team with a shotgun start. Tee time is 8:30 a.m.
The tournament is the main fund-raising event for the local Marines' "Toys for Tots" campaign. "Toys For Tots" is a U.S. Marine Corps tradition now in its 55th year of distributing more than 7 million toys nationwide each Christmas season.
The local Marines fund the purchase of Christmas presents and other assistance for such V.I. charities as The Women's Coalition, CASA, Bethlehem House, the St. Croix Shrine Club, Angel Tree and others.
The Women's Coalition, open 24 hours a day, provides shelter to crime victims, most of them women and children victims of abuse. The Toys for Tots benefits have helped children they serve, with gifts at special times of the year and in emergencies, a common problem on economically stressed St. Croix.
CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates – operates out of the Legal Services office and operates through federal grant funds from the Victims of Crimes program provided through the Law Enforcement Planning Commission and fund-raisers. At the present time they have 23 trained volunteers who work with an individual child victim throughout his or her time in the court system and, Gail Scherer said, another 11 or 12 volunteers will complete 30 hours of training and join the program next week. Volunteers, who must be at least 21 years old, are women, men, schoolteachers, businesspeople, retirees, of all races.
These volunteers are advocates for a child in all aspects of his life – interacting with the family, perhaps a foster parent, and schools, keeping track of the child with consistent attention and writing reports from their vantage for the court and, said Scherer, allowing judges to see "a child as a life, not just a case." Their role is to monitor, not to mentor.
Scherer said the Christmas party, which "Toys for Tots" contributes to, is a big, Rotary-sponsored event that they try to organize so that siblings who may be in different foster homes will come together for the celebration.
Angel Tree is a group who provide Christmas presents and birthday remembrances for children who have a parent in prison.
Bethlehem House, operated by the Catholic Diocese of the Virgin Islands, provides food, clothing and shelter for the temporarily homeless, mostly women and single mothers but in some cases, married couples. Working with V.I. Human Services Department, Bethlehem House staff work on helping incomers to get housing, skills training, day care referral, and financial assistance such as food stamps.
There is a 24-month limit on stays but, a spokesperson said, nobody has ever stayed that long. They can accommodate 35-40 persons at a time. Bethlehem House started in the days after Hurricane Hugo, and depends on private sector for funding.
The St. Croix Shrine Club makes sure that children who need orthopedic or burn hospital care receive transport, with a parent, to the Shrine affiliated hospitals in Springfield and Boston, Mass. Part of a national network of Shrine Clubs that altogether provide $1.5 million per day for this purpose, the St. Croix group has sent more than 200 children for care in the 24 years of its existence. One child, who could not walk and needed nine operations, spent 10 months in the Boston hospital.
Twice a year doctors from Springfield hold a clinic on St. Croix to identify children who need to get to the hospital. Within a month fter their visit last year, nine children were sent by the Shrine Club for treatment.
Club president Dr. Philip Petachenko played Santa Claus at the Christmas party two years ago, when 120 children received gifts through the Marines' "Toys for Tots" program. He looks forward, he said, "to lots more hugs this year."
The Club, with a nucleus of about 10 hardworking volunteers, has about 25 members, and about 25 St. Thomas men are informally affiliated with them.
This year's "Toys for Tots" tournament will have four hole-in-one prizes, one for each par-3 hole on the course. Prizes will also be awarded for men's and women's longest drives and for the shot closest to the hole. Plaques will be awarded to the members of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams and to the top all-Marine team.
A buffet lunch, tournament shirt and goodie bag are included.
Call Carambola Golf Course Pro Shop at 778-5638 to register.
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