Coronavirus and golf: Superintendent provides masks for first responders

A superintendent-spearheaded fundraiser in the Denver area has supplied more than 6,000 N95 masks to local first responders.


Golf course N95 masks
A delivery from the Daigles: Justin Daigle, his wife, Vanessa, and their daughter, Camryn (front row, from left to right), with first responders outside the Castle Rock (Colo.) Police Department building on April 14. The Daigle family has been raising money for and distributing N95 masks to Colorado’s public safety employees since early April. Photos courtesy of Justin Daigle

Justin Daigle really had only one question for the Douglas County, Colo., sheriff he came across on his way to work during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Daigle, superintendent at Perry Park Country Club in Larkspur, Colo., was wondering whether his maintenance staff needed letters stating they’re essential workers, just in case they were stopped by law enforcement while commuting to and from the private, 18-hole golf facility. Over the course of the conversation, though, another question came to Daigle’s mind.

“I had just listened to a news report about deaths of first responders in New York, so right before I was leaving, I asked the sheriff if he had any N95 masks,” says Daigle, a 20-year GCSAA member. “He told me he only had two, so I went to my shop and gave him 10. The excitement on his face told me that they didn’t have enough N95s.”

Daigle then reached out to a friend who is a first responder in the nearby town of Castle Rock, Colo. The situation there was similar — a shortage of masks that was leaving personnel with no choice but to disinfect and reuse masks.

All of that set Daigle in motion. “I have a wholesalers license, and I get stuff for the golf course through that,” he says. “I found a certified N95 dealer and got my hands on them after I made sure first responders could accept them.”

N95 masks are tight-fitting, cup-shaped face masks that cover the nose and mouth and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, filter out at least 95% of airborne particles.

Justin Daigle superintendent
Justin Daigle, golf course superintendent at Perry Park Country Club in Larkspur, Colo., picks up a shipment of N95 masks to be donated to local first responders.

Daigle and his wife, Vanessa, decided to set up a GoFundMe campaign to assist in purchasing N95 masks, and they contributed $1,000 of their own money to get the ball rolling. A call to his parents resulted in the four of them deciding to match up to $4,000 in donations. Daigle’s 9-year-old daughter, Camryn, even chipped in $2.14 out of her piggy bank. The ensuing match from her father brought in $4.28.

“Tears to my eyes,” Daigle says of his reaction to his daughter’s gesture. “Empathy and compassion are such core values that you want to instill in your kids, family and staff.”

The Daigles publicized the fundraising effort by word of mouth and on social media.

“We launched with the story on the first day and basically didn’t receive anything,” Daigle says. “After 48 hours, we were halfway there, and within 72 hours, we had reached our goal of $9,000.”

The initiative continued to attract attention, including in the form of a pair of television news stories in Denver. In addition, Daigle received a call from the Colorado-based OneGoat Foundation, which was established in 2006 to support the nation’s first responders through private donations, corporate partnerships and event management services.

OneGoat Foundation

“We teamed up with OneGoat, and they put together a new logo — a goat with a mask (right). How committed is that? It is so awesome,” Daigle says.

OneGoat’s director, Michael Papi, agreed to match the next round of donations up to $5,000. Donors met that goal, and the organization doubled the amount.

Daigle receives orders of masks within 10 days. As his shipments come in, he, Vanessa, Camryn and OneGoat personnel deliver the much-needed gear. His first order of 3,000 masks was distributed among the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, Castle Rock fire and police departments, Denver Police Department, and city of Aurora first responders.

The Castle Rock fire and police departments paid some of their gifts forward, providing masks to a local hospital.

“You know how superintendents have a brotherhood and how we are family? So are first responders,” Daigle says. “It is the same. They all are looking out for each other just like we do.”

As of April 22, 6,320 N95 masks had been donated, with another 1,300 scheduled for April 23. Daigle says he has 5,000 more masks coming his way soon, and he is looking forward to putting them in the hands of those who need them most.

“We ask who is in need and then reach out,” Daigle says. “We ask an honest question: Are you in dire need right now? We find out who is in dire straits and try to help them out. Sometimes what we contribute will triple what they have on hand.”

Daigle’s golf course is open for members, and he and his staff of five and a half (down from the normal 19) manage basic maintenance and roll with the punches each day. After 5 p.m., he directs his energy to helping those on the front lines fighting coronavirus.

“We are protecting those who protect us,” Daigle says. “That is how it all started. It feels good doing it. The most rewarding thing is the faces of the first responders when we show up with the masks. Their eyes light up.”

Mike Strauss is GCSAA’s media relations manager.