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Friends have a heart for Africa

Using golf to make a difference in the lives of African children is the idea behind what has become an annual fundraising effort.

The eighth annual Friends of Africa Education Golf Tournament was held Thursday, Aug. 14, and raised more than $26,000 to help improve two schools in Tanzania and Kenya.

A group of dedicated believers in the cause, originally from Woodbury but now boasting members from around the Twin Cities, has seen hundreds of thousands of dollars raised over the last eight years, all in the name of a cause dear to the hearts of many.

The Friends of Africa Education (FOAE) have made it their business to support the work of the St. Margaret's Academy in Tanzania since they formed in 2001.

They were made aware of the need for the school that year, when a lady by the name of Mama Tesha, now the director of St. Margaret's Academy, arrived in Minnesota on a one-way plane ticket and knocked on the door of Pastor Ralph Olsen of King of Kings Lutheran Church in Woodbury.

"Pastor Ralph just loved what she was doing, and wanted to help her out," explained Woodbury resident Lisa Engh, who is a board member of the FOAE.

"Members of the congregation of King of Kings held a golf tournament right away in 2001, and raised enough money to build the primary school for K-7 grade."

These days, the membership of FOAE has expanded far beyond the walls of King of Kings church, but sees its fundraising doing more and more to support the education of more than 100 children in Tanzania, who have often been orphaned by AIDS.

This year, funds will also be sent to a second school, Uluthe School in Kenya, paying for the construction of three classrooms, toilets, kitchen and land, in addition to helping to pay for three new classrooms at St. Margaret's.

The golf tournament, which was held at Tartan Park Golf Club in Lake Elmo, was hosted by the morning show co-host for KLCI radio 106.1 Chuck Knapp and attracted 120 golfers, with another 60 people joining for dinner.

It also featured two members of the Minnesota Wild, who were raffled off to join two foursomes. And Joel Goldstrand, who played on the PGA tour from 1965-1973 and was inducted into the Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame in 1998, also took part in the tournament.

A downpour during the afternoon saw the golfers thinking creatively, moving inside the clubhouse to practice their putting skills using beer glasses and raising money in the process.

Now that the tournament's over, rather than sitting back on their heels, the Friends of Africa Education are already looking ahead to the spring, when Mama Tesha is expected to make a return visit to Minnesota.

Plans are already afoot for more fundraising efforts then, so keep an eye on the organization's website, for more details.