By Alex Gallagher
Seven years ago, beloved Scottsdale philanthropist and Lincoln Heritage Life Insurance president Tom Londen died at age 59 after a yearlong battle with cancer.
Although the news was initially devastating, his spirit lived on for what has become an event that has raised nearly $750,000 since its conception.
A year following his death, the Tom Londen Memorial Golf Classic was launched, thanks to an idea from his longtime employee Loren McKenzie.
“(Tom) got into golf late in life, and he began to love it. Then one of our longtime associates, Loren McKenzie, came up with the idea of a golf tournament, which we stole and made bigger,” says Tom’s son, Matt, with a laugh.
After hosting its tournament for about two years and donating the funds to cancer research charities, Matt says he realized he was only contributing a small portion to a large fund. He says he felt the funds from the tournament could be used toward smaller causes.
“We were first donating to cancer research places like the Cancer Research Institute then we realized that we were a small fish in a big pond because its annual budget is millions and millions of dollars,” Matt says.
“We also realized that we were contributing to preventing future cancer — which is great — but we realized that my father would have helped people today, which is why we decided that we should find a way to help families of people who actually have cancer right now.”
Matt’s search for smaller organizations led him to the Airpark-based Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children. After a conversation with the nonprofit’s founder, Chrisie Funari, he was sold on a new organization to support.
In the past five years, the tournament has raised just over $500,000 for the nonprofit and this year it hopes to top over $120,000, which will be raised through golf tickets on Saturday and a charity auction and raffles held on the Friday night reception.
The funds will help the Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children’s mission to provide social, emotional and financial support directly to families managing the health and well-being of a loved one with pediatric cancer.
“It will support families in the Valley with any sort of financial expense that is related to their cancer treatment,” says Meg Dufour, Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children director of events.
“The financial aid that we provide goes towards those bills that pile up due to medical expenses or due to a parent having to leave their jobs because they need to spend all their time getting their child to and from medical appointments and chemo treatments.
“We also provide quarterly financial grants to these families as well as emotional and social support through services like canine therapy and counseling services.”
More than 140 golfers will contribute to the cause, while competing for the grand prize, an all-expense paid trip to the Florida Keys.
Because of this, Matt admits that there tends to be some friendly competition between the golfers.
“People take it pretty seriously and there are some people who are really good that often finish in the top one or two groups of four, so it’s pretty competitive, but it’s also really fun,” Matt says.
Though several groups will be shooting for the top prize, others are typically there to have a good time, like Matt.
“Then we have people like me who are terrible at golf, but we just go out there to have fun and that’s fine,” he says with a laugh.
Still, the event serves as an ode to the enduring spirit of Londen.
“He was a very charitable person who would have loved an event like this,” Matt says.
“So, this is a perfect fit for my dad to be doing something for a charity like this seems to resonate with the people I work with and the people I socialize with.”
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