Top: Three generations of the Golden Gershwin family
Bottom: Yogi Berra with Jason Gershwin and twins
For 31 years, the Helen and Leonard A. Golden Memorial Golf Classic has brought together family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues in New Jersey to raise funds for myasthenia gravis research.
The annual tournament was created in honor of Helen Golden, who suffered from myasthenia gravis symptoms for years before her diagnosis, and her husband Leonard Golden. The type of person who fought things head on, Helen came up with the idea of hosting a charity golf tournament to raise awareness about MG.
Today it is the largest and most successful golf fundraiser benefiting the MGFA.
When the family started the tournament in 1992 thanks to Helen and Leonard’s son-in-law, Sam Gershwin, no one expected it would continue so long or become so successful.
“The first year it rained, and they had maybe eight golfers, but nonetheless the charity tournament was born,” said Jason Gershwin, Helen and Leonard’s grandson, who became chairman of the annual event 18 years ago. Three generations of the Golden-Gershwin family have worked together to run the tournament.
“It’s really exciting to witness and, frankly, quite powerful,” Samantha Masterson, MGFA’s president and CEO, said. “The sense of giving back and being dedicated to something that is bigger than oneself is evident with this family.”
Jason remembers riding around in a golf cart as a child and being tasked with taking pictures of the event. His involvement deepened as he got older, and he took the reins as the event’s leader in his mid-twenties.
His twin sons Zach and Owen, now 15, have grown up at the tournament.
Top: Board members Kyle Sell and Brian Gladden join MGFA President and CEO Samantha Masterson at the 2023 golf classic.
Bottom: Zach and Owen Gershwin (right) with friends at the 2023 tournament.
One of Jason’s favorite memories is the time when his boys were little, and baseball legend Yogi Berra, who attended the classic for many years, autographed their Yankees bibs.
Everyone in the family plays a role, from recruiting attendees and silent auction packages to staffing the registration table and greeting attendees at the clubhouse.
Even his “work family” has rallied behind the event – each year staff from his company, R4 Capital, come in droves to sponsor and attend with their friends and clients.
“My favorite part about this event is perpetuating the legacy of my grandparents, and doing it with my family – my parents, my sister, my wife, my sons, my in-laws, aunts and uncles – and with my work family,” Jason said. “And then hopefully to pass it on to my sons. They never met their great-grandparents, but they want to be involved. That it’s important to them to keep running the outing is probably the most rewarding aspect of it.”
Running a successful event for so long requires a strong group of volunteers with various skillsets and the dedication to create a fun, memorable experience. The family has worked hard to make the Golden Classic a can’t-miss event.
Jason said that running a first-class event is essential to attracting people with no personal connection to myasthenia gravis. The more people enjoy a day on the golf course, the more funds are raised to support MG research and education, and the more people walk away with an understanding of what MG is.
“We offer a great course, great giveaways, great food and raffle and drinks, so people say, ‘Wow, that was a really fun day,’ and mark their calendar for next year,” Jason shared.
He says guests come back year after year. They know they’re in for a great time in service of a great cause.
If you’re interested in starting a charity golf tournament or other community fundraiser to benefit the MGFA’s mission, reach out to Tasha Duncan or fill out the Become a Fundraiser form.