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Operation Warrior Wishes reach links, second anniversary

Inaugural golf scramble benefits STC-based nonprofit

St. Charles-based entrepreneurs Craig and Matt Steichen stand just a few weeks away from celebrating the second anniversary of Operation Warrior Wishes.

“It’s hard to explain,” Craig Steichen said, “but one day you’re thinking it was yesterday and the next you think, ‘Wow, it’s already been two years.’ ”

What began as a father-son challenge to see a game in each NFL stadium during one season grew rapidly into a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization that helps wounded veterans and their families attend sporting events nationwide.

On Aug. 25, the Steichens will welcome another barometer for measuring time, as Operation Warrior Wishes’ inaugural golf scramble will be at Royal Hawk Country Club in St. Charles.

As of Thursday, 16 foursomes had registered for the event, hovering closely to the Steichens’ initial goal of 25. Cost is $125 a golfer or $450 for a foursome, with the package including greens and cart fees, plus a dinner banquet.

Hole sponsorships remain available, as well, at rates of $2000, $500 and $250.

All proceeds benefit Operation Warrior Wishes and its 2014 NFL campaign, which begins with the Sept. 4 season opener between the host Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.

Current sponsorships include a Firestone hole in which two tires are placed on the green. A ball landing in either one nets the golfer a prize.

For information, call Craig Steichen at 630-339-6714.

The Steichens since have grown their operation to include sponsors in several NFL cities, meaning both are not required to attend each game. Matt Steichen and his wife welcomed a son, Xander Ditka Steichen, seven months ago, limiting Matt Steichen’s availability to stadiums within day trip distance – Chicago, Green Bay and Indianapolis.

Yes, his son’s middle name is after iconic former Bears coach Mike Ditka, but it also traces to the charity. Honest.

In the early stages of the Warrior Wishes project, when it still was called All32in17, then-ESPN personality Rick Reilly delivered a video essay about the endeavor on a “Monday Night Countdown” around Veteran’s Day. Ditka, a co-host on the show, urged the Steichens to contact him. He later became Warrior Wishes’ first donor.

Major League Baseball since has reached out to the Steichens, who also have began servicing families of fallen soldiers. A documentary about Warrior Wishes also is near release.

Craig Steichen, a semi-retired salesman, and Matt Steichen, a banker, are eager to see how the golf fundraiser boosts Warrior Wishes, although still a tad cautious.

“We want to be big in scope,” Craig Steichen said, “but we don’t want to be a huge organization that’s going to have 50 employees and that kind of thing.”

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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