California Correctional Institution, or CCI, recently held its first golf tournament at the Rio Bravo Country Club in Bakersfield. Inspired after the passing of a retired employee, CCI put together the fundraiser in a little over two months, raising over $10,000 to help children.
On April 4, after attending a funeral for a retired employee, Warden W.J. “Joe” Sullivan asked Lieutenant Elias Garcia if the institution’s staff would be up for a small golf tournament to create an opportunity for them to enjoy being together somewhere other than work.
Lieutenant Garcia immediately set the idea in motion, calling on Lieutenant Eric “Bart” Barthelmes, whose skills at planning and organizing are exceptional. Together, they cobbled together a committee of some of the institution’s best golfers.
Bart called upon Correctional Officers Cody Bloxom, Jason Fabrie and Steve Dickerson. Within four days of inception, a committee was formed and the team met in the Warden’s Conference Room. Ideas were exchanged, phone calls were made to secure a venue, lock in possible dates and times, and discuss door prizes. Through all the excitement, the team felt something was missing. Officer Fabrie suggested they needed a rookie.
Officer Casey Butler, with only eight months in the department, was also a golf pro at Rio Bravo and had a particular set of skills the committee was lacking. Officer Butler procured Rio Bravo Golf Course at a reasonable price including the lunch buffet. This price allowed the committee to keep the entry fee for the tournament affordable and enticing to participants. Lieutenant Garcia saw an opportunity to do some good in the community and pitched the idea to raise money for the Jamison Children’s Center.
For over 25 years, the institution has worked with the Stallion Springs Police Department to gather and donate toys during the Christmas holiday season to the children’s center. Lieutenant Garcia, who is the still learning the ropes as the new public information officer for the institution, thought surely the Jamison Children’s Center could use more help throughout the year other than just the holidays.
He met with Joy Johnson, Director of the Jamison Children’s Center, for a site visit.
“The visit of the center was humbling. I was awestruck to see the interaction of the men and women at the center with the children. They were patient, kind, and caring to the children. Ms. Johnson stated that approximately 100 children are received monthly and taken care of until they are placed with family members or foster parents,” Garcia said.
Before the site visit was completed, it was decided the golf tournament needed to serve a dual purpose.
Within seven days of inception, Lieutenant Garcia scheduled a meeting with Warden Sullivan and the golf committee.
“I thought this would be a small tournament. I was a little concerned about the short amount of time, but I was proud of the work these guys did in only weeks,” Warden Sullivan said.
Every Wednesday at noon, the committee met to discuss their accomplishments during the week and what details needed attention. Fliers went out inviting all staff to participate. The committee members procured trophies, prizes, company sponsors, custom tournament hats for the participants, ball markers and beverages.
Officer Butler was unrelenting in his pursuit of securing local sponsors in Bakersfield and Porterville, all during his off-hours. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association came through with a donation of $500 dollars, which helped the final total of contributions.
On June 14 at 5:30 a.m., the committee was out at Rio Bravo Country Club. The tee signs for the local business who supported and sponsored the event were being placed at each hole. Ice chests were filled with beverages by the many volunteers who came out to help in any way they could.
The prizes were being set out for the players to view while volunteers registered the teams. At 8:45 a.m., the institution’s Honor Guard marched out and presented the colors. The golfers removed their hats and all stood in respect as Jency Gates, daughter of Correctional Officer Jeff Gates, sang the National Anthem.
As Ms. Gates finished strong with “and the home of the brave,” the crowd erupted with cheers and the tournament had begun.
As the round of golf was drawing to the end, golfers returned with their score sheets, had their fill of the taco bar buffet and their choice of drinks. Shortly after the buffet, yells and applause could be heard throughout as golfers claimed their prizes. Prizes included a 50-inch flat screen TV, a gift certificate at a local gun shop, golf clubs, Eagle Mountain Casino gift baskets, and gift cards for local businesses.
Lieutenant Garcia and Nubia Perez, of the Kern Partnership for Children and Families, took the money and began counting. After double and triple checking their numbers, it appeared that CCI staff raised just over $10,000 for the Jamison Center.
“I can’t believe these guys pulled this off in such little time. They are a wonderful example of the staff that CCI have working there. We truly have the best staff and I hope that we can continue to help the Jamison Center out in any way we can,” Warden Sullivan said.