A Helping Hand

By: Matt Sheehan, Pistons.com

Several Pistons personalities and former players enjoyed a round of golf at the Knollwood Country Club on Monday, but Rick Mahorn, Vinnie Johnson and Dave Bing were not there to talk basketball. They, along with Pistons play-by-play announcer George Blaha, gathered for reasons far greater.

More than 120 guests participated in the 25th annual George Blaha Higher Hopes Golf Outing to benefit Vista Maria, an organization that helps Michigan adolescents who have been abused, neglected or trafficked.

The annual golf outing and auction has earned more than $1.8 million over the past 25 years for Vista Maria’s recovery, educational and after-school programs.

“In a couple years, we will be over $2 million,” Blaha said at Monday’s event. “These girls deserve another opportunity, serenity and some love in their life.”

Since 1883, the organization has sought out mainly young women around Michigan who have been abused, neglected or human trafficked. Today, Vista Maria helps more than 400 kids recover and find their success story per day, according to President and CEO Angela Aufdemberge.

Aufdemberge calls Blaha’s relationship with Vista Maria somewhat of an “adoption” and cites Blaha as one of Vista Maria’s hardest working benefactors.

“When we get ready to do this golf outing, it starts six months in advance of him talking to people about items to be brought for the silent auction as well as live auction,” she said. “So he’s actively engaging folks and relationships to make the event and the auction items as robust as possible.”

Through Blaha’s golf outing, Vista Maria is able to help the teens “reclaim their youth” after they lived a majority of their childhood in abuse and neglect.

“What we find to help boys and girls heal is the extras that (most people take) for granted,” Aufdemberge said of the school supplies, toys and Christmas festivities that Vista Maria provides.

Blaha’s golf outing has raised enough money to build a swimming pool on Vista Maria’s campus and fund activities like soccer or gardening – hobbies that help the adolescents find a newfound passion.

Through the golf outing and the assistance Blaha has given to Vista Maria over the past 25 years, Aufdemberge calls the longtime voice of the Pistons “a blessing.”

“25 years doing anything every year is a significant contribution not only to the Pistons organization, but to the greater community,” she said. “Folks like George are rare.”