WHITTIER - The Rancho Los Amigos Foundation's 20th Annual Rancho Golf Classic, benefiting world-renowned Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, was not just a sellout and a financial success, but a very moving experience for those who participated."The tournament earned more than $85,000 after expenses to support vital patient programs and patient care efforts at Rancho, and exceeded all expectations in its ability to inspire all of us who played" said Foundation President Gene Klow. Held at Friendly Hills Country Club in Whittier on Monday, the event featured inspirational stories of real-life miraculous Rancho patient stories at each of the 18 holes on the course. "To see the results of the incredible work that Rancho does for its patients was truly inspiring," said Mike Silacci of AT&T, the co-chair of the event for which AT&T was the Title Sponsor. "We all know Rancho is one of the great rehabilitation hospitals in the world, but when you see how they help their patients overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, it makes you proud to be associated with such a special place." One of the most compelling stories during the tournament came from Rancho Patient Advocate Gilbert Salinas, who played 18 holes on the hilly course in his wheelchair. Riding in a golf cart with his wheelchair strapped on the side, Gilbert had to unfasten the chair, place it on the ground, and transfer to the wheelchair each time he hit a shot. He then had to reverse the process to return to the cart and continue play. "Gilbert is a former Rancho patient who overcame an accidental shooting to become a respected leader in America's violence prevention movement," said Rancho Chief Executive Officer Jorge Orozco, who played in the same foursome as Gilbert. "He has spoken at major national conferences, and even shared the podium with the President of the United States. He inspires us every day with his dedication to Rancho's patients, but at the tournament, he inspired us with his athleticism, his persistence and his courage. Imagine yourself performing the physical feats Gilbert did just to play golf. And when you realize that his play was by far the best in our foursome, his effort is even more impressive." "I took up golf because I really wanted to play in the tournament," Gilbert said. "The physics of hitting a golf ball out of a wheelchair are a bit different than playing wheelchair basketball, football or tennis, but I have always been an athlete and I knew I could do it." And Monday, he did. Although he tired on the closing holes from the exhaustive effort he put forth, he meticulously attacked each hole on the course, showing what can be accomplished with courage, persistence and the will to win. "Gilbert exemplifies the Spirit of Rancho," said Los Angeles County Fourth District Supervisor and Rancho Golf Classic Honorary Chair Don Knabe. "Golf is just another of many roads he has traveled on his personal journey to excellence. Playing golf is tough enough for all of us who don't have to transfer into and out of a wheelchair for each and every shot. And how many of us who are supposedly able-bodied could lift that chair up a couple hundred times in a single day. It was simply amazing." Rancho Golf Classic co-chair Matthew Knabe of Englander, Knabe and Allen, also found Gilbert's effort to be uplifting. "Having Gilbert out on the course reminded us all of how much effort Rancho patients must put forth to fully participate in activities most of us take for granted," Matt said. "When you think about the energy he expended out there to accomplish his goal to play all 18 holes, it touches your heart and makes you proud to be associated with Rancho." In addition to AT&T, sponsors of the Rancho Golf Classic included Platinum Sponsors Supervisor Knabe and Sodexo, Gold Sponsor Martin E-Z Stick Labels, Shirt Sponsor RGS, Dinner Sponsor Vanir Construction Management, Cart Sponsor PIH, Bronze Sponsor Lunday-Thagard Co. and Auto Sponsor Browning Automotive Group. "We are very thankful for the outstanding support we received from all our sponsors, underwriters, contributors, golfers and volunteers," said Supervisor Knabe. Tournament founder Charles Coniglio and his son Steven were also spotlighted at the event. After Steven broke his neck in a high school wrestling accident, doctors at an acute care hospital put his odds of ever walking again at one in a million. But when Steven got to Rancho, his treatment team fueled his desire to walk again and gave him the special therapy and exercise regimen to succeed. Then it was up to him, and up to God. Seven months later, against all odds, Steven walked out of Rancho on his way to a very fulfilling life. Today he helps his father run Coniglio Wines of Napa, California, which makes and distributes distinctive and highly rated wines. Steven also enjoys playing golf, and on Monday he and his father played brilliantly in the Rancho Golf Classic. "I felt I wanted to give something back to the place that inspired my son to walk again," Charley said. "Many places have medical expertise. But nowhere is there a hospital that fights as hard for its patients as Rancho. "So we started this tournament. It is rewarding to know that it has grown so much over the last 20 years," he said. "I know in my heart that Steven and I will always support Rancho. Because no matter what our family does, we can never adequately repay the people of Rancho for what they have done for my son and our family."
********** Published: August 12, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 17