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Dear Editor: It was a beautiful fall day in Savannah Monday, Sept. 27, when dozens of golfers headed to Southbridge Golf Club to play in the 2nd annual charity tournament benefitting the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation in Augusta. The Burn Foundation and the Savannah community forged a unique and solid bond in February 2008 when 20 employees of Imperial Sugar Plant explosion were flown to Augusta for treatment at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital. Within hours, parents, children, siblings, co-workers, pastors and friends arrived in Augusta as part of a great caring force that would stand vigil for weeks, and in some cases months, praying for the recovery of their loved ones.
Like the Phoenix, special relationships often rise from the ashes of a catastrophic fire. The events that followed the Imperial Sugar fire were an amazing display of neighborly love as strangers reached out to each other offering lodging, food, prayers and a listening ear. Recoveries were celebrated and losses were mourned. Together, our communities endured a life-changing event that would leave some members of each community bound together through an unseen tether of compassion.
Sept. 27’s golf tournament was no exception. The Sugar Hill Gang, a group of Imperial Sugar retirees, organized the tournament. Under the leadership of Bill Tumlin, volunteers solicited sponsorships, recruited teams, cooked burgers, tallied score sheets, swapped tales and enjoyed a beautiful fall day in Savannah.
Several business sponsors reached out to the military community by hosting four teams of service men and women from Hunter Air Force Base and Fort Stewart. As an added bit of fun, players arriving at the 11th hole were asked to take a swing wearing the armored vest and helmet worn by service men and women in Iraq today. It was an eye-opening experience for all. Some had trouble bearing the weight of the armor and few could take a swing. Everyone left that tee with a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices made by our military for each of us.
WTOC helped promote the event, and local businesses paid sponsorship fees and  donated door prizes. While many could not relate directly to the mission of the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation (and we hope they never will), some participants still carry the painful memories that tragedy leaves behind. All seemed to enjoy the opportunity to spend time with friends while raising money for the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation.
On behalf of those patients and families who will arrive in Augusta today and days to come, we thank Savannah and the wonderful volunteers who help us continue to show the same compassionate support that was shown on that cold February day in 2008. Thanks to you, we will continue to provide a home away from home for families of burned patients and help those being discharged with special needs. A special thanks to The Sugar Hill Gang for sweetening the lives of many.

Jo Endres Maypole, president,
Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation, Augusta
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