Wendy's Walk for Kids honored by Champions Tour

ENDICOTT — Keli Cooper recalls vividly the embryonic stages of Wendy’s Walk for Kids, which has become a charitable staple attached to the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.

“When we got the call to do this (in 2009), there was never a question of ‘Do we do it?’ The question was, ‘How do we do it?’” said Cooper, coordinator of the event celebrated Wednesday at Nirchi’s Restaurant on The Avenue. “And the answer to the ‘How?’ was, everybody in this room and everybody in this community.”

Tournament sponsors and volunteers were among those on hand to celebrate acceptance of $30,000 from the Champions Tour as result of Wendy’s Walk for Kids’ selection as 2012 Champions Tour Charity of the Year.

The event featured 700-plus walkers last August at En-Joie Golf Course and generated in excess of $190,000 — up from the $40,000 raised in its 2009 inaugural when 150 walkers participated.

“Each year when we decide our Charity of the Year recipient, we try to say, what charity was putting in enough effort because they understand that that effort that they’re putting in is actually making a difference,” said Kenyatta Ramsey, Champions Tour vice president.

Ramsey was present on behalf of Champions Tour president Mike Stevens, who was ill and unable to attend, said Dick’s Open tournament director John Karedes.

“When I think about the Wendy’s Walk for Kids, you look at the on-site activation throughout tournament week, you look at the squeeze balls on the 18th green Friday after play, when you come to the course Sunday morning you see over 700 participants,” Ramsey said.

“It is easy to see that they are making a difference in the community. They’re not just asking for your support, they’re asking you to join their efforts to help make a difference.”

The $30,000 reward will benefit children in the Greater Binghamton area through the children’s organizations associated with the 2013 Walk and beyond.

“This thing went from an idea to a Walk in I think it was 49 days or something crazy that first year,” said Wendy’s franchisee Jeff Coghlan. … “It was so much fun and so exciting because everybody came together and made it happen.”

Said Cooper: “When John called me and told me right before Christmas that we had received this award, I practically drove off the road. … He said, ‘Yes, you’re the Champions Tour Charity of the Year recipient.’

“All I could think of was all of the hard work done by this community. It’s not an award that the Wendy’s Walk for Kids is receiving, it’s not an award that the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open is receiving, it’s an award that the Greater Binghamton community is receiving.”