HAVERHILL — In the last half-century, the Murphy family has hosted the annual Gazette Hole-in-One Contest at the family’s Garrison Golf Center, raising more than $200,000 during that time.
That money, every penny, has gone to the Gazette Santa Fund to help struggling local people during the holidays.
And during those 50 years, the contest has become a tradition in Haverhill — an early October rite of passage toward the holiday season, a chance for members of the community to help those who need support buying Christmas gifts or affording a holiday meal.
Ted and Mary Murphy and their family have never missed a year hosting the contest — until 2020. Like so many other events, the Hole-in-One event was canceled this year because of the pandemic, but the Santa Fund’s mission goes on, minus money that would have been generated by the golfing contest.
So the Murphys, the Gazette and supporters of the Santa Fund are left with a challenge: How to collect enough donations to make up for the loss of the contest, which raised $10,455 last year for the fund.
Expectations are that this year more people than in past years will seek help during the holidays because of hardships caused by the coronavirus crisis — local businesses struggling, people out of work, help from the federal government drying up or slow to come.
Mary Murphy said she has been rallying the business community to help, asking merchants who usually donate items to be used as prizes in the Hole in One Contest to instead donate money to the Santa Fund. She said the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce is also sending an email blast to its members to seek support for the fund.
Starting this year, the Merrimack Valley YMCA will help to administer the Santa Fund for the Gazette as well as its sister newspaper, The Eagle-Tribune, and ensure the money raised goes to support those in need. Donations will continue to support residents of Haverhill as well as others throughout the region.
The Merrimack Valley YMCA supports families during the holidays with its food pantry and annual toy drive, among other programs. It also works in partnership with other agencies and nonprofit groups serving the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire.
People who donate to the Santa Fund are able to give in memory of family members or friends. Donations can be given by using a coupon included in the Gazette or by going to eagletribune.com.
The Hole in One Contest has annually been the foundation of the Gazette Santa Fund, providing a strong base of money in October that the community donates to during the holiday season.
The contest involves people going to Garrison Golf Center on Hilldale Avenue and paying for a bucket of golf balls which they hit toward a hole. Participants whose shots go in the hole or come closest win prizes donated by local businesses. In recent years, the event also featured a putting contest.
The Murphys hope to bring back the Hole in One Contest next October — in plenty of time to support Santa’s next visit.