On September 14, 2001, we held the first Bill Knope Memorial Golf Outing. No dinner that year, just a small lunch and a short awards ceremony. It was on a Friday, three days following the September 11th attacks in New York City and Washington DC. We considered canceling the outing but there wasn’t enough time. So, that morning, we bought a fistful of American flags from a guy selling them in a gas station parking lot and headed to the golf course.
Thirty-one people showed up that day. We were a shell-shocked group, attending what was probably the first social gathering for each of us since the 11th. We were united by loss, but rejuvenated by the camaraderie we shared that afternoon...which set the tone for the next fourteen years.
We never could have imagined how this little golf outing would grow or the direction it would take. In the early years, tragic events within the group determined the focus of our fund-raising and our commitment deepened. Our numbers grew, our list of supporters got longer, and the outing became an annual tradition for many, on the last Saturday in September.
We started out with ten foursomes and ended with twenty-five; we graduated from a lunch for 31, to a dinner for 185. The money we raised went first to the New York City firefighters, and was then shared with the kids in the Royal Oak Hockey Association (ROHA) and those close to our hearts: Eric & Brandon Garfat, Ian Sey and Joe Craft.
We owe a special thank-you to Frank Wisniewski, whose unbridled enthusiasm and energy brought so many golfers, donors and supporters to the outing. Without Frankie, it would have been a much different event.
There are hundreds of other people to thank: our loyal and generous supporters, our golfers who always showed up happy and ready to go, and the families and friends who came for the dinner. We tried to list all of their names each year. But for some, you'll see only the nicknames Frankie assigned to them when he turned in his foursomes list, which were always good for a laugh at registration.
There's one group in particular that never missed an outing. True blue friends to Billy, the ROHA and to us, we will never forget the loyalty of Matt Barnowski, Steve Barnowski and Chris Raske.
Collectively, we created a golf outing that we know Billy would have loved and would not have missed. In fact, we believe his hand was in every one of them. For fifteen years, we held a golf outing at the end of September--in MICHIGAN--and never once were we rained out or caught up in some freak snowstorm. Anyone who has ever lived here KNOWS that has to be some kind of a record, so we thank Billy as well.
The outing has been a labor of love for our family and is a testament to what can happen when you bring good people together for a good cause and a chance to show a little love for each other. The entire experience was a gift...and an honor.