For a Rams team and organization that is, in many ways, growing up together on the field, there is perhaps no better evidence that its growth extends beyond the confines of a football field than the annual team-sponsored March of Dimes golf tournament that took place Tuesday at Old Hickory Golf Club in St. Peters.
Since the Rams and Kevin Demoff, the team’s chief operating officer and executive vice president of football operations, began their involvement with the tournament in 2010, the event had grown by leaps and bounds.
It’s a growth that yielded one of the biggest turnouts in the event’s history on Tuesday as Demoff, coach Jeff Fisher, general manager Les Snead and a cohort of about 18 players, four coaches and many members of the front office staff teed it up to raise money for the March of Dimes.
“We are the youngest team in the NFL,” Demoff said. “Last year we were the youngest team, this year we are even younger. I think we’ve already had four marriages this offseason, one baby by my count. So we are going to be a group that’s going to grow together and have a lot more marriages, a lot more young babies and I think it’s a cause our players can rally around and identify the importance of what healthy youth and being around and developing healthy babies is. It’s just a really natural partnership for us.
That partnership was forged four years ago as the Rams and the March of Dimes first teamed up to establish the Challenge for Champions Golf Tournament. The tournament itself has existed for 10 years and in that time raised more than $1 million to help the March of Dimes’ efforts in giving all babies a chance to be born healthy.
Players in the tournament make donations to get involved and then have opportunities to bid on the chance to add players or coaches to their foursome via a silent auction. From there, they play 18 holes with prizes for longest drive, closest to the pin and more as well as special food and beverage tastings from local restaurants throughout the course.
The main goal of the day, though, was to do everything possible to ensure that mothers and their babies have everything they need to see their pregnancy term through as healthy as possible.
Mary Elizabeth Grimes, the State Director of Missouri March of Dimes, said the continued evolution of the relationship her organization has with the Rams has helped the tournament continue to reach new heights by not only working directly with the Rams but through partnerships shared from each side.
“We really enjoy the relationship we have with the Rams,” Grimes said. “Actually, as a result of the relationship that we have built with them with their partners and the partners that we had and even being here at this facility, this really is an indication of how successful the relationship has become. I am hearing, for example, that the people that are coming today and they are starting to come in are saying ‘Wow, this is really great.’ That’s a wonderful indication of how things have evolved over the years. It’s all about the experience. We are just anticipating that when they leave tonight that they are going to sign up again next year because this is going to be, at the end of the day, a wonderful experience for everyone involved.”
With so many Rams players, both youngsters and veterans alike, continuing to build families, the cause makes it an obvious must do when the tournament comes up each year.
Wells and his wife Julie went through the pain and anguish of losing stillborn twins in 2006 with Julie just 20 weeks into her pregnancy. Since then, the March of Dimes has become a flagship affiliation for Wells and his family.
Wells made it a point of helping the March of Dimes in Green Bay by hosting radio shows with teammates that featured autograph signings with he and another player to help raise money for the cause. He would then match whatever money was raised and donate it each season.
“Being a parent who has lost two premature children, this is definitely something that is close to my heart,” Wells said. “Anything that March of Dimes can do through research or funding research, whatever they can do to bring hope to parents who have to deliver babies prematurely is huge. At our stage, trying to deliver at 20 weeks, there was no hope. The only outcome would be that they would die. Anything they can do to improve those in that situation to provide hope that there might be something that can be done earlier and earlier for each child is huge.”
Even though he proclaims that he’s not much of a golfer and he generally only wins the category of “most balls lost in a round,” Wells was an instant yes when presented the opportunity to get involved with March of Dimes in his first offseason in St. Louis.
“I play for charity events so that’s about the extent of my playing,” Wells said. “I have clubs but they aren’t here. I’m not a golfer but I enjoy being around the guys and coming out and definitely for the cause, anytime somebody needs me to come out and play for a charity event, I’m willing to do it.”
For the March of Dimes, the event is just one in a number of cornerstone programs they put on each year in Missouri. In addition to the golf tournament, they have the annual March for Babies at Forest Park, the Bikers for Babies event and signature chef event coming in September to the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis.
Now in its 75th year of existence, the March of Dimes helps babies born in the United States every day through research, education, vaccines and more. In Missouri, the March of Dimes has awarded more than $3 million for those ventures and more than $5 million in Illinois.
Each step of the way in a pregnancy, the March of Dimes makes a contribution, even if it’s something behind the scenes such as newborn screening and help through the developmental phases of pregnancy.
“Very simply put because most people are not really clear: we want every mother to have a healthy pregnancy and every baby to have a healthy start,” Grimes said. “We are the only organization that touches every single person. I call March of Dimes the silent ally because when every baby is born, the March of Dimes is there. We are behind many of the things that are in the birthing process that most people don’t even recognize.
Moving forward, the Rams and March of Dimes hope to see the event continue to grow and improve upon the participation amongst players, coaches and the community.
Himself the father of two children who were born prematurely, Demoff said the relationship with the March of Dimes is one that is always going to be important.
“I look at this as a great event,” Demoff said. “We were fortunate that both of our kids were born healthy and had a great opportunity in the right hospitals and the right places but you want to make sure everybody has that opportunity. The March of Dimes does such a great job worldwide, here in Missouri and everywhere else, as an organization that leads the healthy baby, healthy youth charge.”
For more information, visit marchofdimes.com/Missouri.