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Funds raised by golf tournament aid K-9 program

The fourth annual K-9 Choper Memorial Golf Tournament at Blueberry Hill Golf Course raised $22,668 for the Warren County K-9 Program. Pictured (from left) are: Chief Warren County Detective Tom Kibbey, K-9 Dina, Committee Member Dana Kibbey, Easton Kibbey, Blueberry Hill Owner Charles Irvin, Tournament Organizer Karen Sobkowski, Blueberry Hill Golf Pro Gary McCullough, Blueberry Hill General Manager James Roth, Conewango Township Police Officer Scott Neiswonger, and K-9 Nic.

The K-9 Choper Memorial Golf Tournament continues to exceed expectations and previous records.

“It’s quickly becoming the most popular golf tournament in the county,” Organizer Karen Sobkowski said.

Not only that, it keeps raising more money for the K-9 program.

The program is entirely funded by donations, events, and sponsorships. The golf tournament is a major part of that.

This year’s tournament was the biggest yet. “We broke every record this year,” Sobkowski said.

Each of the first three tournaments raised about $17,000. The fourth annual tournament raised $22,668.

“The tournament shows the support the community gives to the K-9 Program,” Conewango Township Police Officer Scott Neiswonger said. “It’s unheard of. It’s amazing that we have this much support in such a small community.”

“It shows that we back each other,” he said.

The event provides funds and raises awareness for the county K-9 Program. It is also a memorial to K-9 Choper, who was part of the Conewango Township Police force for three years until his death in June 2018. “It is a good day to remember Choper – remember and support everything that he did,” Neiswonger said.

The funds from the tournament go to everything from the basic needs of K-9 Nic of Conewango Township Police and K-9 Dina of the Warren County Drug Task Force to training and equipment to vehicles, he said.

The 2020 event funded K-9 Dina’s kennel. Portions of the funding from several events have gone toward the purchase of a new vehicle for Dina and Chief Warren County Detective Tom Kibbey.

For the past two events, a portion of the proceeds has gone to other K-9s.

In 2020, some of the funds were donated to the Chautauqua County K-9 Program in honor of K-9 Promber.

This year, $5,000 will be given to the Warren County Adult Probation Department, which is well along the path to acquiring a facility dog.

That dog will work with Probation Officer Matt Gernold. The dog will be around to comfort those who have difficult things to say. It will assist adult and child victims in testifying in court.

“Everyone knows what a dog can do,” Gernold said. “Having a dog around, whether you’re a victim or not, just helps people open up and talk more.”

Unlike the tournaments before this year, the 2021 edition was held over two days – more than a month apart.

The tournament kicked off on July 12. A rain storm struck in the middle of the day, causing a postponement for the afternoon group.

There were 66 teams in the event, according to Blueberry Hill Pro Gary McCullough. There were initially 36 set for each group – but only 30 ended up being able to participate on the make-up day on Aug. 22. “If not for the weather, we would have hit 72 teams,” he said.

“It was a fantastic turnout,” Neiswonger said.

Finding participants is no problem, McCullough said. “People are calling me in March to play in this tournament.”

And, it runs smoothly, thanks to Sobkowski, the K-9 Committee, and the many volunteers that contribute, he said.

Neiswonger also expressed his thanks to Sobkowski and the committee, to tournament sponsor Ed Shults of Warren, and to Blueberry Hill, McCullough, and General Manager Jim Roth.

Sobkowski credited Linda Neiswonger with the overwhelming success of the basket raffle – which brought in $4,500 for the program – and thanked Photographer Bill Vargo for his support and donations, as well as the many businesses and individuals who sponsored holes and donated to the basket raffle.

Merchandise for the event was created by, and still available through, Iccy Ink. Proceeds from those sales go to the K-9 Program.

The fifth annual K-9 Choper Memorial Golf Tournament is on the books for Sunday, July 11, 2022.

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