SPRINGFIELD TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – WKBN teamed up with area organizations for the Annika Fore East Palestine golf outing at the Lake Club.
The fundraising event, hosted by Annika Sorenstam and Ed Muransky, will provide support to the East Palestine community, still recovering after the February train derailment.
The cause hits close to home for Sorenstam’s family. Her husband, Mike McGee, son of the late Jerry McGee, is a native of East Palestine.
He wanted to do something for the town he grew up in and loves. That’s how the idea for Annika Fore East Palestine became a reality.
Muranksy looks forward to what the event’s impact means to several Valley families.
“In today’s day and age of trying to recruit people to our area, it’s not just about the finances and how hard can you work anymore. It’s kind of the environment of the community, and boy we have a great one here when it comes to philanthropic events and kind of reaching out like we are for East Palestine,” Muransky said.
Three dozen foursomes were golfing on Monday. Sorenstam was scheduled to play a hole with every group. She was also signing balls for the groups.
Several celebrity guests were also participating in the golf outing to show support.
Jason Kokrak, a pro golfer who grew up in Warren, was hitting drives for each group on another hole. He said it was important to support the event as a native.
“When a woman like Annika makes a phone call to say, ‘Hey, I’d like you to come to the event,’ you answer,” he said.
Former Valley boxer Ray Boom Boom Mancini says it’s important for everyone to rally for East Palestine.
“We’re trying to help in any capacity. Those people are going to need help for a long time. So this can’t be one and done. This has to be one of many future events to keep showing the love to that community,” he said.
The event also featured retired NFL quarterback and Boardman native Bernie Kosar, former Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, former Steelers player John Banaszak and Youngstown native Bob Stoops, who just coached the XFL’s Arlington Renegades to a championship, among others.
There was also help on the course from NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. He was in charge of keeping everyone loose.
But the team effort was designed to help aid East Palestine in its recovery.
“In trying to get everything back to normal, how tough it’s been. It’s a good feeling to me to help them be able to do that,” said Cavaliers broadcaster Austin Carr, who also participated.
“A lot of it is, ‘Thank you,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, thank you.’ You know, it’s a team effort,” Sorenstam said.
One group included two golfers from East Palestine, who were thrilled at how the event was going to help.
“It’s an opportunity for people who are starting to forget what happened to remind them what’s happening, and people that are showing up here today to benefit our little community, it’s incredible,” said Shawn Elliott.
That team effort involved 123 volunteers to go along with the 144 golfers on the course.
All money raised through the event will go to the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley fund earmarked for East Palestine support. Items purchased will reflect the urgent and necessary community needs.
WKBN General Manager Dave Coy presented a $5,000 check to the cause from the Nexstar Charitable Foundation during the event on Monday.
Sorenstam and Murasnsky accepted the donation. The money will go to The Way Station and The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, all to support East Palestine.
“To me, it was most gratifying because our people were the boots on the ground. They were there from the tragedy right on today with the after-effects and now the recovery efforts. So thank you to the Nexstar Media Charitable Foundation for enabling us to join these people and make this grant,” Coy said.
“You would be surprised at how many people that we can serve with $5,000. Those basic necessities like food, rent assistance, utility assistance really are in small pieces. But a lot of people that are, we’re able to help with that,” said Chaney Nezbeth with The Way Station.