First-Ever Griff Hookings Memorial Charity Golf Tournament Raises Over $30,000

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Cheque presentation for the Griff Hookings Memorial Charity Golf Tournament
Association President Sarah Geer, Sponsorship Director Mark Jennings and players from the South Muskoka Minor Hockey Association join event organizer Jessica Kaye at the cheque presentation on Oct. 12. Photo courtesy of Jessica Kaye

Just over a year after Griff Hookings’ death, his family and friends came together to remember him through a golf tournament and raised over $30,000 in the process.

Hookings, who was born and raised in Bracebridge, died in a helicopter crash while working in British Columbia on August 17, 2020. He was 37 and his daughter Sutton was just eight months old. To keep his memory alive while also raising money for causes close to his heart, his sister Jessica Kaye decided to put together a golf tournament at Windermere Golf and Country Club. The inaugural Griff Hookings Memorial Charity Golf Tournament on Sept. 17 hosted 92 golfers and raised $31,545, which was split between a local hockey association and an education fund for Hookings’ daughter. 

“It was so overwhelming to see the support that came out for this [tournament],” Kaye said. “There were so many people there, friends, family, people I haven’t seen [since] our childhood, so that was just unbelievable to see that support and really made all the stress of putting it together just kind of go away.”

It tugged on her heartstrings to see so much raised for causes so important to her brother, Kaye said. She presented a cheque for 70 per cent of the proceeds to the South Muskoka Minor Hockey Association (SMMHA) on Oct. 12 and the remaining 30 per cent will go toward Sutton’s education.

It was also amazing to hear the memories and kind words people shared about Hookings, Kaye said, especially because they were more than just siblings. She and her brother were best friends, growing up just two years apart. She idolized her older brother and wanted to do everything he did.

“I was that annoying little sister who followed him around our entire childhood,” Kaye said. “As we got older, I really appreciated our relationship because we had the same friends. Growing up in a small community, that’s what you get and I’m very blessed to have that. We were super close up until he died, so it’s hard, but I’m so thankful that we had the relationship that we had.”

Kaye can’t wait to continue hosting the tournament each year in his honour and she plans to make the event bigger and better in years to come. She said the event will always support the SMMHA and Sutton’s education fund, but she’s considering the inclusion of other local causes for future tournaments. No matter who or what the event supports, she’s thrilled to be able to bring together Hookings’ loved ones once a year to reminisce and remember him.

Griff Hookings' childhood friends Hugh Dunlop, Curt Dunlop, Zac Jones and Joel Jennings at the tournament
Griff Hookings’ childhood friends Hugh Dunlop, Curt Dunlop, Zac Jones and Joel Jennings at the tournament. Photo courtesy of Jessica Kaye

“I know how proud he would be, of not just me but of our community,” Kaye said. “He really did have such an impact on everybody that he had met, grew up with, knew, played hockey with, everybody – no matter how hard I try, I can’t find anyone really to say anything bad about the guy, and it really showed at that tournament.”

Sarah Geer, president of the SMMHA, said it was a humbling and emotional experience to meet with Kaye and find out how much the tournament was able to raise for the association.

“We met her with our fundraising director as well as our sponsorship director and the three of us were a bit speechless,” Geer said. “We really didn’t think it would be that amount at all. We were pretty shocked and surprised and excited all at the same time.”

The staff at the SMMHA plan to use the funds from the tournament to create a goalie program in Hookings’ honour. He was a goalie when he played hockey in Muskoka years ago and the SMMHA currently lacks goalies, especially in the younger age groups, due in part to the cost and complexity of the position.

The association is hoping to spark some interest in goaltending by bringing in specialized coaches to work with goalies while also providing money for new equipment to interested players. Geer said it’s been on the association’s bucket list to develop their goalies and attract more players to the position, so they’re thrilled to have the opportunity to make those goals a reality.

“We had all of the ideas but not necessarily the means to do it, so now to be able to get the means to do it and actually make it happen is pretty exciting,” Geer said. “It’ll be exciting for the goalies as well, for them to get that special attention that they deserve and the skills that they need to help amp up their game.”

Geer said they’re looking forward to attending the tournament next year, and in the meantime, they plan to get the goalie program up and running some time this season. Receiving this support from the golf tournament has been an overwhelming and heartfelt experience, she said, and it’s hard to find the words to express their gratitude.

“We’re just so happy and grateful that she was able to provide this for us and then we can provide it to the kids,” Geer said. “There’s good in the world and it’s nice to be able to see that and feel that, and hopefully we can provide that to the kids as well.”

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