By Brittany Llorente
PORT ST. LUCIE -- After a tragic day in February, a community gathered together to support the family of a fallen St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office Sergeant, fatally wounded in the line of duty.
As the family of Sgt. Gary Morales begins to heal, the community continues to show their generosity and support.
On what would have been Sgt. Morales' 36th birthday, both family and community will come together to enjoy one of his favorite pastimes.
The inaugural Sgt. Gary Morales Charity Golf Tournament will take place Saturday, July 13 at PGA Golf Club.
The funds raised at the event will go directly to the Sgt. Gary Morales Memorial Fund to help benefit his wife, Holly, and their two daughters, Brooklynn Simone and Jordan Lyndsey.
Jeff Whelan, a longtime friend of the family, organized the golf tournament for who he calls "his family in Florida."
"I have been best friends with the Morales' for 26 years, back in Medford, New York," Mr. Whelan said. "I worked with Gary's older brother, Brian, who introduced me to the family. It's amazing how tightly knit the family is, they all live within a mile radius in Port St. Lucie."
Losing a best friend was hard for Mr. Whelan, who was helped by Mr. Morales through some difficult patches in his life.
"He was the nicest guy, big heart, never expected anything in return," Mr. Whelan said. "Probably the most awesome guy I've known in my life. He'd take the shirt off his back for you, that's for sure."
Mr. Whelan wanted to give back to the family who took him in. Remembering days golfing with Sgt. Morales sparked an idea and a golf tournament was organized.
"One hundred percent of the proceeds are going to the memorial fund," Mr. Whelan said. "Everything we have is being donated by the community up to this point."
There have been many generous donations and all will be used for prizes during the tournament.
"There will be prizes for lowest score, most honest golfer, closest to the pin and furthest drive," Mr. Whelan said. "The biggest prize will go to a hole-in-one: a 2013 Mercedes-Benz."
For the family, the generosity of the community around them has been nothing short of extraordinary.
The support has been inspiring to Mrs. Morales.
"There aren't even truly words for how it feels," she said. "It's really touching to have so much support. What happened was tragic but the whole community has made this a better situation than we could have hoped for."
For those interested in golfing at the tournament, registration starts at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, July 13 with a continental breakfast. There will be a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m.
Lunch will be served immediately following the tournament.
Cost for a four-person team is $400 and cost for single golfers is $110.
PGA Golf Club is located at 1916 Perfect Drive, Port St. Lucie.
To sign up or make a donation, contact Mr. Whelan at (772) 579-5553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.