In 1987, a group of friends from Sacred Heart Grade School decided to come up with a way to help their buddy, Fr. Patrick Russell, with his medical expenses. They put together a golf scramble and were able to raise $2,500. With that success they decided to continue holding an annual tournament with the intent of helping others who may have medical needs and expenses. For 15 years the annual event was known as the Father Pat Russell Charity Golf Scramble. From 1987-1991 a total of $20,000 was raised for five recipients.
In 1992, the tournament directors began working with Mountain States Tumor Institute and widened their geographic area to the entire Treasure Valley. The purpose stayed the same, a fund raiser that would assist anyone in need of financial, physical, and moral support due to a chronic and/or life threatening illness. From 1992-1996 a total of $36,000 was raised for five recipients.
In 1997, Michael Russell took over as tournament director. He developed a standing tournament committee with specific jobs assigned to each member. Today the tournament has over 100 sponsors, all food, drink, and prizes are donated, and has a volunteer base of over 50 people - many of whom are family members, childhood friends and former recipients and their families. Some of the families have since lost their young person to cancer but they continue to volunteer and support this annual event. From 1997-2000 a total of $55,002 was raised for four recipients.
In 2000, Michael Russell applied for and received tax exempt, non-profit status from the IRS. The tournament became The Friendship Scramble: A Charity Event for Children, formed a Board of Directors and celebrated its 20th anniversary on May 20, 2006. From 2000-2006 over $121,600 was raised for six recipients.
As we prepared for our 2006 tournament it became evident that this annual event had become a fund-raiser for something bigger. The Board of Directors maintains a very small operating budget but nearly 100% of the funds raised go to our recipients. Our existence is year to year and we have always relied heavily on private and personal donations.
In conference with local business leaders our Board Chair was made aware of the advantages of developing a self-sustaining Foundation. Something that would continue to support and assist a young person (and their families) with a life-threatening and/or terminal illness and who is faced with the financial hardships incurred due to this illness or disease. We would, also, remain focused on families in the Treasure Valley. Our goal would be to develop a strong, fiscally sound Foundation that would continue long after the current directors and committee members have retired. The Board agreed to the name change, The Friendship Foundation: Benefiting Children and Youth in the Treasure Valley. The annual Friendship Scramble would continue as a fundraiser for The Friendship Foundation.
For 20 years we have strived to create a day of memories for our young recipients. We find out their likes and loves and create a basket filled with their favorite things like videos, movie passes, books, toys, posters, etc. (our 2006 recipient loved to fish so received a new tackle box filled with all sorts of fishing gear). In addition, local merchants donate YMCA memberships, Zoo Boise passes, coupons for restaurants and local attractions, movie passes...and the list goes on. One year our very young recipient just wanted a backyard with grass so that he and his brother could play outside. A local company donated their time and materials to make that wish come true.
This basket and other goodies are in addition to receiving all the proceeds from that year.s golf scramble. Our recipients and their families have been able to use these funds for numerous activities: to pay for four years of college, take a family vacation, buy a new mobile home, purchase reliable transportation, visit family and friends in other parts of the country or fly them to Idaho for a visit. There have been many who have used the money just to help pay astronomical medical bills, and/or their rent and utilities. The funds raised have gone towards a number of things that have had to be put aside as parents stop working, use up savings and mortgage homes in order to care for their very ill children. We do not try to supplant those charitable organizations that are already doing so much but rather supplement the services of these organizations, one family at a time.
This entire organization runs on heart and the belief that a few of us can make a difference in the life of a child and their family. It can be a very difficult undertaking as so many of our young recipients have passed away. These are very sick young people, but knowing that we can provide something that brings a smile to their faces as well as joy (and some relief) to the faces of their families is what keeps (and will keep) the Friendship Foundation going for a very long time.