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American Hero & Expert Golfer Endorses Heroes Crusade Tournament


Brian "Ski" Donarski had little patience for the challenging game of golf several years ago. Fast forward to today, and you'll find a guy that is not only devoted to improving his personal golf game, but who also puts on golf clinics for organizations like Fisher House Foundation. What is especially extraordinary about Donarski, besides his golf game, is that his clinics are produced by the Salute Military Golf Association (SMGA) for wounded veterans.

He almost didn't live to see this day. Donarski was nearly killed in 2006 while serving in Iraq. He is now throwing his full support behind the first ever Heroes Crusade charity sporting tournament taking place in Fayetteville from November 4-6, 2011.

A member of Special Forces, 1st Lt. Brian Donarski, 35D, 43, is a former Marine and active duty member of the Army. His team members hit an anti-tank mine in Iraq in 2006. He suffered debilitating and nearly fatal injuries: suffered a stable burst fracture in his neck and bulged disks in his back; ripped his right shoulder out of joint; lost the vision in his right eye and now wears a prosthetic soft lens in that eye due to optic nerve and brain issues; and suffered several traumatic brain injuries. According to doctors, Donarski should have been paralyzed from about an inch below his Adam's apple.

"By all accounts of the accident, I should be dead," Donarski said. "But for some reason, the fuel in the tanker I was carrying didn't ignite. That's got to mean that I'm still here for a reason."

Like many soldiers and veterans, Donarski had trouble adjusting to life after his injuries. He used golf as a tool to help him slow down and re-acclimate. Donarski has earned himself quite the reputation in the world of professional golf, which is especially impressive considering the handicaps with which he now plays. Golf was such a valuable tool in Donarski's recovery that he began working with SMGA to put on golf clinics for other wounded veterans. Like Donarski, SMGA believes the rehabilitative benefits of golf can improve the mental and physical condition of wounded warriors returning from combat. SMGA provides instruction, equipment and playing opportunities for veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Donarski's ultimate goal is to impact wounded service members and veterans hospitals throughout the country. When Donarski heard about Fayetteville's Heroes Crusade, he felt compelled to get involved.

"Heroes Crusade is choosing to step up and make a positive difference in the lives of wounded veterans," he said. "I would have never become the man I am today without help from other people, so I feel like it's my responsibility to pay it forward. Participating in Heroes Crusade is one way I can do that."

Donarski will kick off the Heroes Crusade golf tournament by welcoming all participants on Friday, November 4 at Cypress Lakes Golf Course (2126 Cypress Lakes Road, Hope Mills, N.C.). Other Heroes Crusade events include the Fallen Warrior Rugby Tournament on November 5, and the 5k run/walk and 18/36/62 mile bike ride on November 6. The goal of the sporting trifecta is to raise awareness and funds for wounded warriors, many of whom will be participating in the event. Proceeds will benefit three military charities: Wounded Warrior Project, Green Beret Foundation and RDU AMBUCS.

"As America's First Military Sanctuary Community, Fayetteville/Cumberland County is dedicated to 'watching over those who watch over us' by supporting the military," said John Meroski, President and CEO of the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Heroes Crusade is doing that by paying tribute to wounded military heroes. Brian is living proof that our returning heroes can have fulfilling and successful lives with a little help."

Donarski recently qualified to play in George W. Bush's Warrior Open, a tournament featuring servicemen and servicewomen who were severely wounded in the global war on terror. He also finished in the No. 1 spot in a tournament held in Washington, D.C. That victory qualified him to go to Scotland later this month to play Kingsbarns, Carnoustie, St. Andrews and several other prestigious courses with another member that has used SMGA to help him recover from combat injuries.

"I participate in events like Heroes Crusade because most people are too busy to stop and help others. I believe when you take time to help others, you're actually helping yourself. We have to look out for the people coming along behind us," added Donarski.

Heroes Crusade is sponsored by Rugby Promotions, Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Army's Army, Volvo, Chick-fil-A, Hardee's, and Booz Allen Hamilton. To register to participate in any of the Heroes Crusade events as an athlete, sponsor or donor, visit www.HeroesCrusade.com.