Johnny Bench, local stars team up for Hope for Warriors golf tournament

Four-day event culminates in golf tournament in Wallace, NC with money raised for wounded military members.

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Former baseball catcher for the Cincinnati Reds Johnny Bench

WALLACE, N.C. — Johnny Bench signed countless baseballs, hats and scorecards as he walked through the clubhouse at River Landing Golf Club. The 68-year-old Hall of Famer didn’t mind the attention, and he actually invited it on Monday afternoon.The 14-time All-Star catcher was on hand yet again for the Hope For The Warriors golf tournament in Wallace, participating in nearly every event over its five years at River Landing. While he didn’t actually play golf this time around, Bench helped raise money for the association from last Friday through Monday.”I’m all for everything we can do to help the healing process,” Bench said. “These men and women were injured fighting for us. Giving back in every way possible still doesn’t seem like enough.”Bench and former teammate Doug Flynn, an 11-year MLB veteran, found the association nearly a decade ago and immediately wanted to help. After both participated in a golf tournament at Camp Lejeune in 2005 that awarded money to winners, they decided they wanted to be a part of an organization that solely rewarded the soldiers.”I felt like, ‘I’m coming down here for a cause that I should be bringing money in for,'” Flynn said of other tournaments. “I just sort of felt like there was more that we could do. So we started finding ways to raise money … because there’s no adequate way that we could ever give these guys back what they deserve.”Bench was a little more skeptical at first after having helped out other associations.”When they initially came to me, I said, ‘How much money do you want?’ That’s just my normal reaction,” Bench said with a laugh. “But Hope For The Warriors wanted me to help make a difference. With so much of the money going back to soldiers, that was good enough for me.”In fact, 92 cents out of every dollar made goes back to the wounded military members. Those funds go to every branch of the military to provide assistance to combat wounded service members, their families, and families of those killed in action.Now in its tenth year of business, Hope For The Warriors has changed the lives of several military families. Last year alone, more than $300,000 was provided to 264 families with 148 military households saved from eviction or foreclosure.John Rose, an active Gunnery Sergeant in the Marines with 15 years under his belt, has benefited from Hope 
For The Warriors on multiple occasions. With a false left eye from battle, he feels the golf tournaments are beneficial for soldiers in more ways than just raising funds.”This tournament is awesome because it brings us around other guys like ourselves,” Rose said. “It helps us grow so much as individuals. You may have a problem, I may have a problem, I’ve dealt with that problem and here’s something that worked for me. It really gives us a chance to learn from each other, and there’s not many organizations out there that give us that opportunity.”Even with a tournament that also included stars like NC State legend Dereck Whittenburg, singer Scotty McCreery and sportscaster Rick Allen, the military members were constantly under the spotlight. Rose’s sentiments were exactly what Hope For The Warriors co-founder and CEO Robin Kelleher set out to accomplish when she started the tournament.”The tournament for us is a way to let the service members be the heroes, celebrities and stars,” Kelleher said. “It’s kind of a 180-degree flip. It’s a really meaningful event because they can tell their stories. They get to teach each other how to play golf and spend that real, organic time together. It’s very meaningful for them because they come away feeling like rock stars.”The service members might come away on a high, but they’re not the only ones benefiting from being on hand at River Landing.”Every celebrity that’s here is here because they know what they’re coming to and the cause they’re supporting,” Flynn said. “They’re here to hopefully make a difference in these folks’ lives. Nobody down here is patting themselves on the back for shooting well or hoping to get any kind of accolades.”We’re just here because we believe this is the right thing to do, and we know this is the right organization to do it with.”