(April 16, 4:07 p.m.) BRADENTON, Fla. — Participants in the ninth Sunripe Golf Classic raised $100,000 to support migrant worker student education.

The 144 golfers in the April 12 tournament helped push the benefit’s cumulative contributions to $1.4 million for the Sunripe Migrant Scholarship Fund endowment at the University of South Florida College of Education in Tampa.

“We are so pleased to be doing this with your help and making this event something very special,” said Joe Esformes, managing partner and co-owner of co-sponsor Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd., Palmetto. “We have long felt the workers who harvest and pack our tomatoes are very integral to our success. This is a great opportunity for us to pay back the families and to help their children achieve as much education and as much success as is possible.”

The fund supports 14 students’ families attending the university.

“Not only do the students profit from it, but very often they want to encourage other students to do what they have done and pursue careers in higher education,” said Colleen Kennedy, dean of the university’s college of education. “What I enjoy about this every year is how creative Sunripe is in bringing together so many of the individuals in the industry to support such a great effort.”

One of the scholarship recipients, Wadner Charles, a 23-year-old Haitian immigrant, plans to graduate in December. He told the group that their support has helped lessen the burden of paying for his college costs.

“This reality would only have been a dream if it wasn’t for your contributions,” Charles said. “I am truly thankful for your financial contributions and belief in the Sunripe scholarship program. It has changed my life for the better.”

Other sponsors were Pacific Collier Fresh Co., Immokalee; Heller Bros. Packing Corp. Winter Garden; and Pacific Triple E Produce Corp., Tracy, Calif. The companies share similar ownership among the Esformes, Collier and Heller families, with the Collier family co-owning only Pacific Collier.

Lee Roy Selmon, who was a defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, donated several items in the live auction. He was careful, however, to avoid the fairways.

“Maybe a few of you have seen me putt. It’s ugly. I’m not good at golf,” he said. “All of you are winning, though, because you’re supporting a great cause that wouldn’t be where it is without you.”

Golf tourney benefits workers’ scholarships
The April 12 Sunripe Golf Classic raised $100,000 to support migrant worker student education.