The 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open blew its previous events out of the water - in total players, added cash, and payouts. But the most impressive record of all was the $200,000 raised for charity.
The $200,000 figure this year more than tripled 2020’s fundraising proceeds, and totaled more than the previous seven years combined.
“In 2019 it was $30,000 and last year it was $60,000,” tournament director Nate Heinold said. “We were very confident in achieving a six-figure donation just to St. Jude.”
The tournament has partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Peoria since 2014. But this year the list of charities expanded beyond St. Jude, with a portion of the $200,000 going to other organizations as well.
“We were trying to expand our efforts even more for 2021,” Heinold said. “We added Easter Seals, the Paul McBeth Foundation, the Southside Mission of Peoria, and Educational Disc Golf Experience (EDGE) to our list.”
Easter Seals of Central Illinois is a nonprofit organization providing services that help children with special needs reach their full potential. The Paul McBeth Foundation introduces sustainable disc golf to under-resourced communities. The Southside Mission of Peoria brings support and their love of Jesus to an area of Peoria that is among 100 of the most impoverished in the country. EDGE helps teach kids about disc golf by providing resources, funding, and programs for schools and youth centers.
Here’s where the $200,000 raised through the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open went:
- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: $120,000
- Paul McBeth Foundation: $40,000
- Easter Seals: $30,000
- Southside Mission of Peoria: $7,000 (in the form of 19 championship baskets donated for the installation of a disc golf course at Camp Kearney)
- EDGE: $3,000
These five charities share more of a connection to the Ledgestone Insurance Open than simply a once-a-year meetup. The Paul McBeth Foundation and EDGE both grow the game of disc golf around the country and around the world. The Southside Mission of Peoria runs Camp Kearney, a youth retreat center that also features a disc golf course where some of the Ledgestone Open divisions played this year. Both Easter Seals and St. Jude serve the communities of the greater Peoria area.
“St. Jude has a research hospital right here in Peoria and the same volunteers have been here since 2014,” Heinold said. “The cause St. Jude fights for – childhood cancer and trying to end pediatric cancer – there’s really not a better cause. It means a lot to Peoria to have a St. Jude hospital right in town.”
At each Ledgestone event when the check is presented, patients or their parents from St. Jude share stories about how the funds helped them or their child. For Heinold, it’s moments like this that emphasize the importance of philanthropy.
“It’s hard hearing the struggles of a kid who’s two or three years old and has gone through chemotherapy multiple times,” he said. “It makes it that much more important to continue to give back.”
“The fans have rallied behind the mission,” Heinold said. “This year we allowed people a 15-minute early access to the special-edition fundraising discs on our website. We were able to raise $23,000 for St. Jude in one hour. The prices are high for the discs, but they know it’s going for a great cause.”
This year’s popular fundraising releases included CryZtal Lunas, CryZtal Fierces and Midnight Z Zeuses.
Even with the massive amount raised this year, Heinold believes he and his staff can achieve an even bigger number next year.
“I don’t know how we’ll top it, but we’ll find a way,” he said.