When Co-Founders Jessica & Kelly Woolwine launched the Fighting Kids Cancer (FKC) campaign in January 2023, they took on the biggest commitment they, or The Life Ring Foundation, had ever undertaken. However, in their minds, there was no other choice but to tackle this huge goal head on and figure it out every step of the way for the FKC mission. The FKC mission being to bring the best and most advanced resources to the fight against pediatric cancer & blood disorders to the Roanoke Valley.

When your child gets diagnosed with cancer, and my husband has said this many times, it almost feels like you have died and gone to hell when you get that information. But the way I have always tried to look at it is, I think that everything happens for a reason… and I think that life is full of miracles, and Charlotte (Woolwine) is a miracle. And I think that we were chosen for this journey so that we could do this. Because somebody needed to do it and we can – so we are going to.”  Co-Founder Life Ring Foundation, Jessica Woolwine.

After preliminary discussions and deciding a golf weekend takeover event at The Dormie Network’s Ballyhack Golf Club was the right first step, they quickly realized critical key factors were needed to be successful. One being to recruit a team of volunteers to build a pipeline of sponsors and donors, as well as help plan and execute the event – hence the Fighting Kids Cancer Committee was born (names & picture listed below). As any nonprofit would agree, volunteer leadership from the community is a vital ingredient to success – and the Fighting Kids Cancer Committee proved just that! The group of volunteers on the FKC Committee truly is one of a kind. Without their countless hours of time, talents, and efforts put into the inaugural 2023 event, there is no doubt it would not have been nearly as successful as it was!

The next realization that quickly came into view was how to capitalize on fundraising potential. The answer to that was two-fold. One being to offer significant sponsor levels that included benefits and amenities donors would see value in the substantial cost. The second was to achieve long-term impact and returning support year over year. Charlotte’s Play Yellow Invitational would need to be unlike no other that Roanoke Valley has seen or experienced before.

By establishing a weekend takeover itinerary, unmatched golf, hospitality, food & beverage, and player gifts – alongside special celebrity guest appearances and mingling – this mission was accomplished. A special thanks in large part to the FKC Committee and Kelli Davis at Children’s Miracle Network. Their help filled the 2023 Charlotte’s Play Yellow Invitational with celebrities. These special guests not only brought their name and influence to elevate the event, but they also genuinely supported the mission, allowing Life Ring to capture content and share on social media. They continue to advocate and support The Life Ring Foundation outside of the event to this day.

The weekend event kicked off Friday with a “Goat Track” tournament, followed by the main program. This program included an overview of the Fighting Kids Cancer campaign goal, live & silent auctions, paddle raise donation moment, and live entertainment by Pat McGee Band. All teams and additional sponsors attended, reaching around 215 guests. Saturday featured an 18-hole tournament followed by awards (including a Hole in One winner on Par 4!) & a second evening of entertainment by the band YARN.

The main event was concluded by a surprise late night element. Karaoke hosted by “the Rocket” Roger Clemens himself on the patio of Ballyhack Golf Club. No one could have predicted or expected that the “Rocket” would transform into “DJ No Request”, bringing his own laptop, and hosting a one-of-a-kind karaoke session that guests would never be able to forget!

When trying to set expectations for a fundraising goal and the event overall, Kelly & Jessica – as well as the Fighting Kids Cancer Committee- really could not have even begun to imagine what transpired. First, the support of sponsors, at the highest price tag the Roanoke Valley has seen for a golf tournament, was truly inspirational. It really proved the Roanoke Valley Community can move mountains!

Sponsorship commitments followed by the extreme success of the live & silent auction and paddle raise moment in the program, truly came as a shock to all (even the bidders themselves!). The generosity of the auction donors provided exclusive packages and experiences that bidders could not resist! More importantly, after hearing the program’s moving mission moment led by Kelly Woolwine, who shared their personal testimony and journey with Charlotte’s diagnosis and the need for pediatric resources in Southwest Virginia, the community’s generosity came out ten-fold.

After the auction closed Saturday, the Committee gathered for a calculation of fundraising totals. The group quicky realized the one-million-dollar mark was in sight. Although they were extremely proud of what they had accomplished thus far (and honestly couldn’t grasp even the numbers right in front of them), they couldn’t settle knowing how close they were to the one-million-dollar milestone. So, they sought out to accomplish that milestone with just a couple hours left of the event.

After a discussion with a few key donors who generously agreed to increase their committed gifts, THE ONE-MILLION-DOLLAR MILESTONE WAS CROSSED!

Towards the end of the event late Saturday evening, a gathering assembled in the Owner’s Cottage at Ballyhack to raise a toast and celebrate. Before the official toast was made, Jessica Woolwine paused and looked around at the group, having a light bulb moment.

“Charlotte’s type of cancer is so rare, that Kelly & I were told we had about a one in one million chance of being diagnosed with it. Little did we know what a bleak diagnosis & prognosis would have led to where we are right now … We just raised one million dollars in our first major fundraising event… how fitting for the one in a million girl who inspired this whole thing…” – Mother of Charlotte Woolwine & Co-Founder of The Life Ring Foundation, Jessica Woolwine

The Life Ring Foundation & Fighting Kids Cancer Committee is so proud to announce that at their first ever major event put on in less than 6 months by a group of 10 volunteers, the inaugural 2023 Charlotte’s Play Yellow Invitational, RAISED OVER $1,000,000!

What’s Next?

The Fighting Kids Cancer campaign is The Life Ring Foundation’s strategic multi-year priority program in partnership with Carilion Clinic, aiming to significantly fund critical pediatric hematology & oncology resources so local families can stay in their community, surrounded by their support system, and receive the best possible care.

This is a 5-year mission for $20 million dollars. So, we got a lot of work ahead of us. What I am hoping is: what happened this weekend is going to be a little bit of fuel. Now, we say, LET’S GET TO WORK.”Co-Founder Life Ring Foundation, Kelly Woolwine.

Special Thanks To:

The 2023 Fighting Kids Cancer Committee

Kelly & Jessica Woolwine, Jordan Bousman, Sarah Wilson, Brandon LaCroix, Chris Walters, Wyatt Poats, Joanna Gruver, Teddy Dalton, Jack Hamlin, and Heather Lindstrom.

Life Ring Foundation Ambassadors (Read their stories here https://liferingfoundation.ejoinme.org/ambassadors)

Auction Donors & Volunteers

Russell Seneff, Woltz & Associate

Ballyhack Golf Club

Within months of the announcement to build a better future for pediatric cancer patients in Southwest Virginia through the Inaugural Charlotte’s Play Yellow Invitational, look who showed up!

2023 Celebrity Guests

  • Roger “The Rocket” Clemens – MLB Seven Time Cy Young Award Winner
  • Julius “Dr. J” Erving – Former NBA & ABA Champion and Hall of Famer
  • “Billy The Kid” Wagner – MLB Pitcher & Hall of Fame ballot
  • Donna Andrews – Former LPGA Champion
  • Charlie Rymer – Golf Professional & TV Personality
  • Shep Rose – T.V. & Entertainment Personality
  • Jacob “Jesus of Golf” Golliday – Ranked Long Drive Golf Professional
  • Brent Pry – Head Coach Virginia Tech Football
  • Mike Young – Virginia Tech Men’s Basketball Head Coach
  • Whit Babcock – Director of Athletics, Virginia Tech
  • Michael Vick – Former NFL Quarterback
  • Troy Daniels – Professional Basketball Player
  • Pat McGee – Virginia Native Rock Band
  • YARN Band – North Carolina Musical Group


Quotes from 2023 Special Celebrity Guests:

“It just grabs you. If you have children, I don’t know how it doesn’t. You don’t want anybody to have to go through this, and if they do – you want to give them every fighting chance for the best treatment available to win their personal battle. And for me, if you have the means, what an incredible opportunity to really impact in a young person’s life” Virginia Tech Head Football Coach, Brent Pry

“You want to be able to give kids a fighting chance to grow up and have an opportunity to grow up and have a fighting chance in life. Too many have been taken too early in their life and never really had a chance to develop into the people that we know they are going to be – wonderful human beings – and for me to be able to have the chance to contribute in some way, is important.”NFL Hall of Famer, Joe Theismann

“I wear a military bracelet every day that says “tough all day” on it. And these kids are tough all day. And they will tell their story, and it is a story that hopefully they will be able to tell for the rest of their lives. That is what you hope for”          MLB Seven Time Cy Young Award Winner, Roger Clemens

“Imagine having a child who is 12 years old battling cancer, and you have to get on an airplane and fly somewhere to get treatment? Or drive across the state? Or drive to a different state? Versus getting the care in your back yard. It gives them the best chance to have somewhat of a normal life, away from their medical treatment. Having world class facilities, the latest in research- not only is it saving lives, but it is also extremely beneficial to have a facility within a reasonable amount of where they live and work and go to school. “Golf Professional & TV Personality, Charlie Rymer


YouTube Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58KvkxrPOfA

Facebook Photo Album – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.638410555082580&type=3

Media Links

Featured in Roger Clemens July 2023 Newsletter –  https://rogerclemensfoundation.org/pages/newsletters