Optimist Club golf tournament raises money to help kids

DOWNEY - The Downey Optimist Club held its 24th Annual Charity Golf Tournament at Rio Hondo Golf Club Monday. The tournament, known as the "Tom Watts Memorial Tournament held in memory of 'Del' D'Alessandro," is the largest fund raiser of the year for the Optimist Club.

The tournament was founded by club member Tom Watts, whose passion for golf was only exceeded by his passions for his family and for helping kids in need. Long-time club member and golf tournament organizer Alfred "Del" D'Alessandro eventually took over the tournament, bringing the same commitment to excellence as Tom.

John Taormina chaired the tournament, with extraordinary support from Optimist Club members Steve Allen, Meredith Perkins, Bob Winningham, Roy Acker, Sam Mathis and Fred Donnelly.

"The community's support is vital to allow us to keep up our good work for the youth of our community," John said. "As one of the most active service organizations in Downey, the Optimist Club supports children throughout the community."

"I also want to especially thank our Secretary/Treasurer Steve Allen, who went way above and beyond the call of duty this year to ensure that our tournament was a success," he added.

The club's local charitable work includes:

* Annually sponsoring scholarships for exceptional students graduating from Downey's high schools. Last year, the club doubled its scholarships to six per year.

* Supporting children with disabilities throughout the year at world-renowned Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center.

* Partnering with the Warren High School Humanitarian Society, whose nearly 200 members work on local charitable projects throughout the year. This school year, the Downey Optimist-affiliated Warren Humanitarian Society will give more than 20,000 volunteer hours in the Downey area.

* Sponsoring the annual "Pumpkin Patch" at Apollo Park in Downey, which provides a safe and fun Halloween for thousands of local kids and their families. Last Halloween, more than 6,500 guests received free hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn, donuts, sodas and helium balloons at what has become Downey's largest event.

* Holding Essay and Oratorical Contests for local high school students. This year 12 local high school students will receive scholarships from these events.

* Making substantial annual gifts to the Arc of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, Downey Family YMCA, local Boy Scout troops, and Darrell Jackson's Ten-Twenty Club.

As fate would have it, Darrell and his team (which included former Dodger outfielder Ken Landreaux) took first place with a net 58 in the tournament.

The big winners of the raffle at the tournament awards dinner were Johnny and Tina Venegas, who won more than a dozen prizes. Johnny and Tina bought 200 raffle tickets, as did Andy Mathis.

Some of the many others who supported the tournament in a major way included Fred Donnelly, the Watts family and Johnnie D'Alessandro.

"We had a fantastic day, with perfect weather and a wonderful lunch and dinner at the Rio Hondo Event Center," John said. "We thank everyone who attended for making it a very special day for Downey's kids."

********** Published: May 2, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 03