A Family Affair for 30 Years

john mcconnell

The McConnell Classic is more than an annual golf tournament. It’s a tradition that’s almost as old as the camp it supports. Celebrating 30 years, the McConnell Classic began with John, whose wife, Gretta, was diagnosed with breast cancer more than 35 years ago. Being in the Muskoka community, the McConnells heard about a camp for kids with cancer, and immediately wanted to support this charity since cancer to them was also a stark reality.

four golfers on the course

The McConnell Classic started as a small golf fundraiser held every June and has since grown to a tournament with 150 players. Rob, Marty and David, John’s sons, now lead the organizing of the annual tournament, which begins as early as February. “Everyone gets involved,” says Rob. “We now have three generations of McConnells in the planning committee, including my daughter Linley and Marty’s daughter, Kate.”

From securing raffle prizes, silent auction items, booking golf courses and tee times, there’s a lot to do. “It’s a commitment,” says Rob. “We can’t do it without the participation of our community and volunteers. These are connections we have built over time, and are supportive of our goal to have fun on the golf course and send kids to camp.”

This year the tournament was held at the Royal Ontario Golf Club, with the McConnell Classic raising more than $100,000 for Campfire Circle! Every tournament features a 50/50 draw, in which the winner often donates their portion back to the charity. Prizes, such as a Broil King barbecue, are donated, and volunteers ensure the tournament becomes a day of fun and light competition.

speaker at the microphone at mcconnell classic

Campfire Circle is front and centre throughout the tournament. This year, the Campfire Circle team was posted up at the first tee with games and challenges, infusing the spirit of camp. “We have people who have been playing together for 20, even 25 years. Friends reunite here, and it’s common to have two generations playing at the same time,” says Rob.

“But the highlight every year is to hear from a Campfire Circle camper. To hear their story and their connection to camp is just inspiring.”

To date, the McConnell Classic has raised almost $1.5 million, delivering healing through happiness to kids affected by cancer or serious illness and their families. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the tournament, Campfire Circle named one of its cabins “Pitch Pine” in honour of the Classic’s contributions.

group of people with hands raised

“I’ve been fortunate in my life and this is my way of giving back,” says Rob.

Thank you Rob, and the entire McConnell Classic planning committee, for your time and dedication to Campfire Circle.

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