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Event changes to a memorial for organizer

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

DEXTER - Scott Kruse loves sharing the story of how the Ben Kruse 18 FORE Life Charity Golf Event began.

It all started late one night when Kruse, his brother, Ben, and their friends Jake Barge and Kip Musgrave were standing in the kitchen after watching a football game.

"It's funny because we stood around talking about how easy it would be to put one on," Kruse said. "But it's anything but easy - we were naive and stupid."

The men simply wanted to do something good for those in need. "We stood around knowing we just don't do enough," Kruse said. Wanting to make a difference, they organized the event.

Scheduled for this weekend at the Hidden Trails Country Club in Dexter, the fifth annual event raises money to help fight cancer. And the name was slightly modified, from 18 FORE Life to the Ben Kruse 18 FORE Life Golf Charity Event.

This change is a memorial to Ben, who died last August, at age 28, as a result of a four-wheeler accident. The name is also a better representation of what the charity does, with some of these changes also inspired by Ben.

Unlike other years, this weekend's event will kick off with dinner on Friday night at the Elks Lodge. All 400 tickets have been sold for the dinner, which will feature Norm Stewart, a cancer survivor and past basketball coach at the University of Missouri, and Chris Mofield, a Dexter native who is fighting cancer, as speakers.

There will also be a performance by Candy Coburn, a Dexter native and country singer.

This addition is something Ben had always wanted, Kruse said. "He always wanted it to be more than just a golf tournament," he said. "He wanted people to get involved, and not just because they liked golf."

The crowd attending the Friday night dinner is serving just that purpose, since a lot of those who bought tickets are not playing on Saturday, Kruse said.

There has also been a large increase in the number of people involved this year. "It's blown up as far as the numbers, excitement and participation," Kruse said.

The 80 four-person teams were full in no time, and there are numerous volunteers this year. Although the players usually come from the Southeast Missouri area, this year several people are coming in from Boston, Oregon, Louisiana and Illinois - mostly because of Ben.

"I think people knew that he loved this thing," Kruse said. "He had so many friends, who don't mind buying a plane ticket." Kruse added that while most of them were playing, some were flying in just to volunteer.

In the beginning, the goal for the golf event was to be a fund-raiser for another charity - the V Foundation - which funds cancer research. "They're a great organization," Kruse said.

But the golf event organizers quickly found they could raise a lot more money and have their own charity, to help local families. "We never dreamed we would ever raise so much money and be in the position to make an impact on the community, but we have," Kruse said.

Keeping with their original plan, they now send $2,500 annually to the V Foundation, while keeping the rest to give as "love offerings." Love offerings are given to those battling cancer in the Southeast Missouri region.

"You don't have to live in a certain place, know anyone in particular or fill out any paperwork," Kruse said. The event organizers receive names of cancer patients who need help from players, sponsors and the media, and try to write out all checks within a month of the golf event, Kruse noted.

They have given away close to $60,000 in the area and hope to raise more money this year than ever before. And their secret to success is giving locally. "We would have never reached our potential just sending our money off to some other foundation, no matter how good," Kruse admitted.

The community has been outstanding in their generosity and support. "I just don't feel like I can say thank you enough to those who help," Kruse said.

The golf event will be on Saturday, with 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. tee times for the four-person scramble.

A silent auction will also start at 8 a.m. Saturday. "There's everything from Cardinal Hall of Famers to Rams autographs," Kruse said. The auction will close out around 8:30 p.m.

And everybody is welcome to come. There will be plenty of food and drinks. "It's a party," Kruse said. "A time to celebrate life and help other people." He urged people to come and just hang out, because that's what Ben would have wanted.

To learn more about the Ben Kruse 18 FORE Life Charity Golf Event or submit a family's name for a "love offering," visit www.18forelife.com, or call Scott Kruse at 573-624-8751.