In 1995, four longtime friends came together with a shared goal: to provide financial assistance to kids and families in urgent need.
What began as a simple fundraiser at a Chicago-area golf course soon blossomed into Mulliganeers, an Illinois nonprofit that has raised more than $6 million and helped more than 410 families over the past 25 years.
“Mulliganeers is committed to helping families who need urgent relief that they can’t find anywhere else,” said Mark McNabola, a Chicago personal injury attorney and longtime board member. “We help families whose children have suffered tragedies like cancer or rare medical conditions, which can be financially devastating.”
Since co-founders Pat Byrne, Randy Ramsey, Bob Sheehy and Mike Zindrick launched Mulliganeers in 1995, the organization has consistently donated 90 percent of all money raised directly to families. The organization, which turns 25 this year, boasts an impressive network of volunteers and donors that allows it to keep costs down.
Mulliganeers recipients are always children and their families who are in need due to illness, injuries or disabilities.
The amount of each award varies depending on need. One family might require $40,000 to cover costly medical bills, while another could request $5,000 to purchase a specialized wheelchair. Still others might be seeking immediate help with rent or mortgage payments because they exhausted their financial resources helping their child.
McNabola, who has been an attorney for more than 35 years, said that individual assistance is essential.
“As an attorney, I work every day with people and families whose lives have been immediately and forever altered by a traumatic event,” McNabola said. “I have sympathy and great empathy for how hard that is for people — not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and financially. Most people who suffer these terrible events don’t get help from the government or other institutions. They have to fend for themselves and don’t really have the capacity to do so.”
That’s where Mulliganeers steps in.
The organization selects recipients through a rigorous process that includes a financial risk evaluation to help determine the amount of each award and veracity of each claim.
“We want to make sure we can support as many people as possible,” said Zindrick, an orthopedic surgeon and Mulliganeers board member. “We do our due diligence, and we respect the fact that people donate money to us with faith that we’ll use it prudently.”
Mulliganeers’ mainstay fundraisers include a St. Patrick’s Day Party each March and a Golf Outing at Cogg Hill Golf & Country Club each fall.
In June 2005, the nonprofit partnered with the Chicago White Sox to host an annual Mulliganeers night at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“A number of our recipient kids have been able to walk onto the field, throw a pitch, visit batting practice and meet some of the players,” Zindrick said. “The White Sox present us with a big check on the JumboTron.”
McNabola praised Mulliganeers’ founders for their stick-to-itiveness and ability to innovate and expand their outreach while staying true to their original mission.
“They keep hustling and are as committed as ever to helping kids in need,” McNabola said. “Mulliganeers has really overcome the struggles and apathy that a lot of other charities run into over time. Plus, Mulliganeers events are just fun — they are loud and big and boisterous.”
As Mulliganeers celebrates its 25th anniversary, Zindrick said he is inspired by the fact that younger volunteers have begun organizing fundraisers on behalf of the nonprofit.
Since 2010, for example, sisters Lauren, Colleen, Kara and Emily Frost have put together an annual Frosty Walk to honor their mother, Darlene, who died of cancer in 2002. To date, the sisters have raised more than $175,000 for Mulliganeers.
“It never ceases to amaze me how generous people are,” Zindrick said. “People are willing to rally around a cause if they’re given the vehicle by which to help.”
Zindrick said he is excited to watch the next generation of Mulliganeers leadership take the reins: “We’ve got a young generation of people stepping up right now. We hope they’ll carry this on for the next 25 years.”
The 2020 St. Patrick’s Day Party, held on March 7 at the IUOE Local 150 hall in Countryside, Ill., drew more than 1,300 people and raised more than $300,000. With cost-savers like donated alcohol, silent auction gifts and volunteer services, the party is Mulliganeers’ most profitable event.
Mulliganeers’ 26th annual Golf Outing is scheduled for Sept. 18.
For more information on Mulliganeers or to donate, visit mulliganeers.com.