Local veteran organization putts for a purpose at annual golf tournament

Outside the Gates
Local veteran organization putts for a purpose at annual golf tournament
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 7:17 PM AKDT
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - They say the more you practice the luckier you get, but it’s certainly not a competition at the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals annual golf tournament that took place at Settlers Bay Golf Course. In fact, cheating was encouraged.

It’s the third time the nonprofit has hit the greens to raise money for the organization that supports veterans and active-duty military navigate their Veterans Affairs home loan benefits.

Steve Bohannon, president of VAREP’s Southcentral chapter and 30-year Air Force veteran, said the money raised at the tournament goes towards the VAREP Cares initiative. It’s an extension of the organization that uses funds toward sudden emergencies or hardships.

“Veterans are very proud people, and they don’t come up [and] voice when they need help — they just suffer in silence,” Bohannon said. “What we had to do is we had to get their neighbors to rat them out.”

VAREP is made up of real estate industry professionals who aim to support military personnel and veterans through education and awareness of economic opportunity to promote sustainable homeownership.

The South Central Alaska Chapter was formed just before the pandemic — which resulted in a slow start, but as the organization has established itself, the need to raise funds for the cares program has grown.

“Now we’re at the point where we’re getting a lot of hits from third-party nonprofits,” Bohannon said. “Fundraisers like this will allow us to continue keeping that pipeline fed as veteran families come forward and say ‘Hey, I could use a little bit of help to get back to my feet.’”

Participants played 18 holes around the Wasilla golf course, buying “cheats” to improve their game and raise additional funds. According to VAREP’s community outreach director MJ Motta, over 60 people registered for this year’s Stars and Stripes Golf Tournament.

Sixteen competitors were active-duty military personnel from JBER whose spots in the tournament were sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project.

“We’re really fortunate to have those VSO connections with the other nonprofit veteran organizations for us to all come together for this cause,” Motta said.

Marcus Nichols, a veteran and tournament participant visiting Alaska from Texas, said he didn’t know of any veteran service organizations when he got out of the Marine Corps over 20 years ago.

“Programs like these, they give you an avenue to ensure that you’re not alone,” Nichols said. “It’s inspiring.”