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Firefighter golfs across the U.S. for charities

October 06, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Powered by a golf cart with more than 4,300 miles on it, Dave Graybill has hit rubber golf balls over the Hoover Dam and the Alamo without being arrested and plans to do the same on some of the busiest streets of Washington, D.C., and freeways of Philadelphia.

But this is not part of a sports-meets-prankster MTV show or movie, it's Graybill's way of raising money for senior and children's charities.

Graybill, a resident of Glendale, Ariz., drove his golf cart through Hagerstown on U.S. 40 Sunday afternoon on his way to Western Enterprise Fire Co. as part of his seven-month journey to New York City. Graybill, who calls himself the "Poor Man's Philanthropist," has been driving the cart cross-country since April and stopping every 50 to 75 miles to raise awareness for the Golf Across the USA Foundation. And in 18 of the cities, including Washington D.C., Dallas, Chicago and Detroit, Graybill hit golf balls around 15-mile stretches with the aid of local police and firefighters.

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"I basically designed a golf course through America - I'm playing Forrest Gump's golf course," Graybill, an Arizona firefighter with a 10-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter, said at the firehouse, located on Washington Street.

"I've parred the whole thing out, too, with a 142,806," he joked. "I can cheat, since it's my course."

The foundation benefits nine charities, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the American Heart Association's Pediatric Heart Research, the Children's Miracle Network and For Seniors, an Alzheimer's treatment and research fund. Graybill began the drive on April 12 in Anaheim, Calif., and has since been through much of the Southwest, the farm belt and the Midwest.

"It's been harder than I thought it would be," Graybill said. "It's hot when you're going through the Texas desert, and it's hard being away from your family."

Graybill said he hatched the majority of the plan in one hour about two years ago. Graybill said he was able to embark on the journey, without major corporate financial backing, as a result of an $80,000 inheritance he received from his father.

And though Graybill said he has enjoyed the trip because of the opportunity to hit rubber golf balls in some odd locations, he is hoping the heightened awareness will result in increased donations through his Web site and toll-free telephone number. He said money raised for the charities will come from donations, which have been slow thus far.

Graybill said he also is hoping to find his way onto a syndicated television talk show to spread the word about Golf Across the USA.

"Hey, they put people on that can open up a beer bottle with the belly button," he said.

For more information on Golf Across the USA or to volunteer or donate to the foundation, call 1-866-222-8188.

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