DADEVILLE — Plenty of awards and honors were handed out Friday afternoon at StillWaters Golf Course, but the truest winners were the 24 children currently living at the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Girls Ranch.

When Lake Martin Realty decided to host its inaugural Lake Martin Realty Charity Invitational, it needed to come up with an organization to give the proceeds to. It quickly settled on the Girls Ranch.

Lake Martin Realty met with several organizations, but Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch director of ranch life Candice Gulley’s presentation was the one which left the biggest impact.

“Candice came in and told us about the girls and some of their situations,” Lake Martin Realty realtor Jeff Cochran said. “We talked for a good half-hour, and when Candice left there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. … When she got up and left, we all looked at each other and said, ‘We are so blessed. We need to help these girls.’”

Cochran said he was excited to see people learn more about the Girls Ranch as well.

“There is no way we would even consider another charity,” he said, speaking on if they would chose to help the Girls Ranch next year as well. “One of our main goals was to make sure that the money stayed local. … The girls being here and some of them sharing their stories, people know that their money is going to something worthy. Even if they didn’t know about the Girls Ranch prior, they aren’t leaving here without knowing something about it today.”

Cochran also thanked StillWaters Golf Course for making the event possible.

With 18 teams of four registered, Boys and Girls Ranches of Alabama CEO Michael Smith was very happy with the support of the fundraiser in its first year. In addition to Lake Martin Realty, the event was sponsored by River Bank and Trust, Lakeside Marina and Lake Martin Dock Company as well as 20 hole sponsors.

The event raised over $12,000 for the Girls Ranch before last-minute donations from participants drove the total higher.

“It is awesome,” Smith said. “You can’t say how great this is. When you have a tournament for the first year and have this many teams and this many people sponsoring holes, it is just wonderful. The community really seems to come together around here for our Girls Ranch at Camp Hill, and we are thankful and proud to be here.”

The Boys and Girls Ranches of Alabama have three ranches across the state, including the location in Tallapoosa County.

“This is for such a good cause,” Smith said. “We’ve been raising children — abandoned, neglected and abused — since 1966. It is just awesome to have the opportunity to be out here.

“We bring them into a real ranch environment so they are able to see and do so many things that they normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to do. … We bring these children in, and they are raised in a family, Christian environment — which means so much to them all.”

After being rescheduled due to the coronavirus, the event was one that participants looked forward to as a way to get outdoors. Golf also lends itself well to maintaining social-distancing guidelines.

“From the moment registration started, it has just gone so smoothly,” Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch director of ranch life Candice Gulley said.

Charles Rodgers, Danny Davis, Billy Henderson and Joe Robertson won the best-ball event and donated a portion of their winnings back to the Girls Ranch. David Jones, Bill White, Cal Jones and Reese McAllister finished third and also donated a portion of their winnings back to the Girls Ranch.

The biggest winners of the day were a newly-formed family, as a 15 year-old girl from the ranch was adopted. Friday was the final day of the transition process, and she spent some of the day with her friends at the golf course before going home with her family.

Anyone looking to volunteer or donate to help the efforts of Boys and Girls Ranches of Alabama can find more information at boysandgirlsranches.org.

“People like Candice, who give their lives to this, are just wonderful,” Smith said. “I feel like I’m the blessed one. Every time that I leave the ranch here in Tallapoosa County, I have to pinch myself and say, ‘Gosh, I can’t believe that you have the opportunity to make a difference in these young people’s lives.’ And that is really what it is all about.”

Lake Martin Realty and StillWaters Golf Course each say they look forward to making the event a yearly one.

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