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Benefit golf tourney to surpass $1.5M for ACS

John Zawacki didn’t grow up with a golf club in his hand. Basketball and track were on his radar as a kid. Then, along about the time he reached high school, he finally found his way to the links, which began what has turned out to be a nearly 60-year love affair with the game.

But the true calling for the former vice chairman at Blair Corp. has been as an American Cancer Society volunteer for the last five decades. Along the way, he founded the Men’s Golf Championship at Conewango Valley Country Club, which on Aug. 4, will observe its 44th anniversary, making it the second-oldest ACS benefit in the country.

“We’re excited that we’re going to be surpassing $1.5 million raised,” Zawacki said last week.

That’s a number, he maintains, that is far more important than what is recorded on any individual scorecard, because supporting the cause — and saving lives — is truly the ultimate goal.

“There are so many positive aspects of what the (tournament) is doing,” said Zawacki, who serves with John Papalia as co-chairmen. ” … This is an event that kind of speaks to the community spirit that Warren County still has despite some of the challenges it faces. It’s too important to let it get away.”

So even though Zawacki acknowledged in a letter to prospective sponsors mailed this week, that “the COVID-19 pandemic is being abated somewhat by much greater adherence to scientific protocols and increasing numbers of people receiving vaccinations, the crisis is not yet behind us. And cancer patients remain among the most vulnerable due to their compromised immune systems. They continue to need our support.”

To that end, the committee keeps plugging away, and the results have been noticeable. In fact, after a steep decline in net profits generated by the tournaments from 2007-2017, the money raised by the event since has increased each year, capped by a $40,000 gain in 2020.

“It took an additional effort to reinvigorate or regrow rather than let this thing go away,” Zawacki said. ” … People got excited. Once we found out we wanted to beat the year before — thanks to a great many people who stepped up — we were able to do it.”

And now, Zawacki, Papalia and the rest of the committee want to do it again.

“We’re not just raising money,” Zawacki said. “We’re saving lives.”

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