Monday, more than than 100 golfers teed off as part of the second annual 890 ESPN Boston Celebrity Golf Invitational at the Hopkinton Country Club to benefit a program that builds homes for severely wounded veterans.
John Gonsalves' life changed three years ago when he saw a news report about an American soldier who had lost both of his legs while serving in Iraq.
Touched by the soldier's plight, the Wareham-based construction supervisor and contractor was eager to do anything he could to help. He wanted to lend his talents to an organization that built and adapted homes for severely wounded veterans.
The only problem was he couldn't find one.
``I found out that nothing like this ever existed,'' Gonsalves said.
So Gonsalves dropped his construction business and decided to start his own group called Homes for Our Troops, which builds or remodels homes for veterans who were severely wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yesterday, more than than 100 golfers teed off yesterday as part of the second annual 890 ESPN Boston Celebrity Golf Invitational at the Hopkinton Country Club to benefit Gonsalves' non-profit organization.
The list of celebrities who were scheduled to compete in the event included former Celtic Jo Jo White, former Boston Bruin Glen Featherstone and comedian Steve Sweeney.
Len Weiner, program director for 890 ESPN Boston, said the mission of Gonsalves' organization `` really struck a chord'' with those who organized yesterday's event.
Homes for Our Troops completed its first home two years ago in Middleboro for Sgt. Peter Damon and his family. Damon lost both of his arms in an explosion while he was changing a tire on a Black Hawk helicopter. Since then, the organization has completed 14 more homes for injured veterans, and 20 more are currently being built in 18 states, Gonsalves said.
One of the homes that's currently being built in Massachusetts is for a injured soldier in Plymouth.
Gonsalves said these types of fundraising activities like the one yesterday in Hopkinton do more than bring in much needed money to build and adapt homes for injured veterans. It also opens of the eyes of many who don't know the organization exists, he said.
``With events like this, it's not all just about the money we raise - it's about awareness,'' Gonsalves said.
Also participating in yesterday's event was Staff Sgt. Larry Gill, who was wounded in Oct. 7, 2003 in a grenade explosion in Baghdad. He met Gonsalves while he was recovering from his injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and now serves on the advisory board of Homes for Our Troops and is a veteran's advocate.
Gill is currently looking to raise money for a home for an injured soldier in his native state of Alabama.
``I think I was meant to help these guys,'' said Gill, who has twice been awarded the Purple Heart.
Gonsalves' organization has already received widespread support across the country. Pro golfer Phil Mickelson has publicly supported Home for Our Troops by taking part in a campaign called ``Birdies for the Brave'' where fans can join Mickelson in donating money to the organization every time Mickelson makes a birdie or eagle.
``The more people that know about what we're doing, the more of these houses we're going to be able to build,'' Gonsalves said.
Richard Conn of The MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.) can be contacted at 508-626-4338 or email@example.com.