Nearly 20 wounded veterans swung their clubs -- and Bluffton's mayor fell from the sky -- for the Fifth Annual Wounded Heroes Golf Classic.
The Lowcountry Foundation for Wounded Military Heroes hosted the golf tournament Monday at Hampton Hall in Bluffton. The group has raised over $300,000 in donations to provide funds for charities that benefit wounded military heroes.
Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka made an adventurous entrance at the tournament by skydiving in tandem with a member of the Special Forces Association Parachute Team from Fort Bragg, N.C.
Sulka said her first experience jumping out of a plane, and dropping nearly two miles onto the ninth hole, was very peaceful.
"It went from blistering, to wind, to feeling like you were as close to heaven as you will ever be," she said.
Being able to play in the tournament was close to heaven for U.S. Army veteran Tommy Falsetto. He is one of the many warriors who has received support from the foundation.
"This event means the world to me," Falsetto said. "Just getting the support and seeing that people care about us means everything."
Falsetto served in the military for five years and was deployed to Afghanistan for 12 months. He is a senior at the Professional Golfers Career College in Bluffton.
"Being deployed was obviously tough, but I made it back safely," Falsetto said. "I am just thankful to be here and playing in this tournament."
The foundation's media relations chairman, Randy Miller, said the goal of this year's tournament is to raise $100,000.
"Every year the event gets bigger and more inclusive," Miller said. "We had a vision when we started this five years ago, and now we get a lot of support from the Lowcountry."
Miller said the foundation hopes the Lowcountry can be looked to as a community that takes care of its own.
"With Bluffton being a major golfing community, our two great passions are golfing and taking care of our veterans," Miller said.
The funds raised at the tournament will be donated to the Birdies for the Brave, which is operated by the PGA Tour, and other charities dedicated to supporting wounded heroes.
This year, the Wounded Military Heroes also donated about $40,000 to the K9s For Warriors organization, which provides service dogs to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The donation paid for four dogs, including Berkley and his new owner, U.S. Army Cpl. Rick Smith, who participated in this year's tournament.
The foundation has also donated thousands of dollars to charities such as Operation Homefront, Special Operations Warrior Foundation and Feherty's Troops First Foundation. And over the past two years, the foundation has donated $55,000 to provide mortgage-free homes to two veterans in the Lowcountry.
Sulka said the event represents a small fraction of the service work being done in the Bluffton community.
"This group of people is just a sample of all of the people in this town, that find a cause and work so tirelessly," Sulka said. "This foundation went from a thought to two-day event that helps so many, and I am very proud."