It’s been 15 years since Olie Kolzig and Stu Barnes first teed off in Olie & Stu’s Desert Bash. Little did they know back then that the event would become so popular and so important to the Tri-City community.
The former Tri-City Americans teammates, along with former Tri-City and current Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, will host the annual event today through Monday at Meadow Springs Country Club in Richland.
“I love the Tri-City people,” Kolzig said. “They have supported us over the years. Once we established the (Carson Kolzig) Foundation and turned it into a fundraiser/awareness tournament, the amount we raised exploded. The Tri-City people care about their community and children.”
Over the years, the event has raised more than $1.7 million for the Carson Kolzig Foundation, which delivers its primary services through the Responding to Autism Center in Kennewick. The foundation is named in honor of Kolzig’s 14-year-old son, Carson, who was diagnosed with autism in 2002.
Last year’s Bash brought in $181,000. Of the money raised, $68,000 came in cash donations — a record amount for the event.
Carson, who greeted the auction crowd last year, will be in attendance today, along with sisters Kendall, 12, and Ashlyn, 11.
“He is turning into a young man,” Kolzig said of his son. “He will be there, as will the girls. They were getting jealous because they didn’t get to come. They are getting older and are understanding more about the Bash. They are starting to have a little more empathy toward their brother.”
This year’s event takes on a different twist from past Desert Bashes. Today is the benefit auction and Heroes Dinner. Among the vast array of auction items are backstage passes to the Jimmy Kimmel Show, two tickets and lodging to the 2016 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, U.S. women’s soccer team autographed collage and a Nouveau all-day spa package for four.
Sunday features the 18-hole Bash Tournament with a 1 p.m. shotgun start.
Monday is the Rock and Roll Golf Scramble, which is open to the public. The cost is $400 per player, which includes lunch, three tribute bands, themed drinks and snacks, a silent auction and an outdoor reception. There still is time to get in on the action, with registration accepted until tee time at 1 p.m.
“We changed the format to keep it fresh and people interested,” Kolzig said. “Monday’s event opens it up to a broader base. We can introduce the event to people who haven’t been able to attend in the past.”
Though Kolzig and Barnes had long and successful careers in the NHL, it’s Price who brings the excitement to the course these days.
Price won a gold medal with Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics in February, and last month made a haul at the NHL Awards, winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player, the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie and the Ted Lindsay Award for the most outstanding player as voted by the players. Price also received a share of the William M. Jennings Trophy with Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks as the goalies on the teams that allowed the fewest goals in the regular season (189).
“He’s been rightly honored for what he did this year,” said Kolzig, who won the Vezina in 2000. “He is a Tri-City Americans alumni, and he doesn’t owe us anything, but the way he supports the foundation is appreciated. We (Kolzig and Barnes) are who the kids’ parents talk about — Carey is now.”