BLAINE, Minn. (WCCO) – Once again the greats of professional golf are teeing it up in the annual 3M Championship at the TPC in Blaine.
Celebrating its 22nd year in the Twin Cities, the tournament will draw huge crowds to both its tournament play and team competition featuring golf legends Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
On Friday as play got underway there was also a flurry of action behind the scenes.
That's where dozens of helping hands and caring hearts were gathered to assemble some 5,000 food packs for needy kids.
The packs will be given out to needy school children in the coming weeks as a way to bridge their weekends of hunger.
For many of these kids, school lunches are the only meals they can count on receiving throughout the week.
"When they take that home they've got a couple of meals and snacks to enjoy over the course of a weekend. So it's definitely designed to help keep kids eating over the course of a weekend," Thrivent Financial's Tom Young said.
Thrivent is among the nearly 150 corporate sponsors making the annual 3M Championship into the state's largest professional sports charity.
"We actually donate more money to charity each year than all of our professional sports teams combined," Hollis Cavner said.
As the executive director of the 3M Tournament, Cavner isn't shy when it comes to celebrating the event's impact.
"Our first year we made a couple-hundred-thousand dollars. Now it's more like one-point-three million every year that goes to local hospitals," Cavner said.
Over the tournament's 21 years of play more than $21 million has been generated to boost charitable causes.
Money raised from this year's tournament will be used by Allina Hospitals to defray the cost of improving and building much needed medical programs.
Allina's Duke Adamski says charity was at one time just a bonus – now he says it's becoming a big part of the capital budgets.
"Philanthropy used to be the icing on the cake. But through diminishing reimbursement in health care, it's becoming the cake. The real big things happening in health care are supported by philanthropy," Adamski said.
Money raised will upgrade mother-baby centers at Mercy and United Hospitals. Another portion will help defray the cost of Abbott Hospital's critical care campaign, to benefit improvements to emergency rooms and neurology intensive care.
For spectators at the TPC in Blaine professional golfers might be the main attraction - but charity will emerge as the true winner.
A special attraction Saturday morning will be an autograph signing by some of golf's legendary players. The tournament is free of charge to the general public.
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