- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 9, 2006

Bobby Mitchell has a wide open, infectious smile.

And every July, he rounds up the usual suspects to participate in his Toyota Hall of Fame Golf Classic, held at the rolling hills of the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va., to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Most charity events in Washington are chaired by women, decorated by women and faithfully attended by the women’s friends.

This is a guy event, where they haul the wife and kids to the resort for a mini-vacation weekend so they can joke, smoke, drink and drive to the green.

This weekend, Mr. Mitchell — former Redskins star — and his gracious wife, Gwen, hosted more than 40 pro football and basketball Hall of Famers for the tournament’s “Sweet 16” anniversary.

Many of the attendees were longtime supporters of the event, including master of ceremonies Paul Berry, Sonny Jurgensen, former Houston Oiler Elvin Bethea, former Redskin Sam Huff, former Dallas Cowboy great Mel Renfro, former Chicago Bear Gale Sayers and former Los Angeles Rams star Deacon Jones. First-time attendee former Seattle Seahawk Steve Largent chatted with former Harlem Globetrotter Marques Haynes during the VIP reception as Meadowlark Lemon (yes, his real name, born the third Meadowlark in his family) looked on.

Mr. Bethea was in a joking mood.

“This is my fourth year. We didn’t cheat as much as we should,” he said with a big laugh. “Bobby puts this event on and then wins.This year, we figure we’ll outcheat him.” There was a gala dinner attended by nearly 600 guests (with Wheaties boxes adorned with the Hall of Famers pictures), steak and potatoes and many open bars.

Mr. Berry took the microphone and announced that the golf resort’s new Greg Norman-designed course was open.

“Some of you will play as badly on the new course as you did on the original,” he said.

There was a live and silent auction, and last year the event set a fundraising record of close to $700,000. Event Co-Chairman Tamara Darvish, executive vice president of DARCARS, was also on hand.

As for his attendees, Mr. Mitchell said, “I get on my knees crying to them every year.” He knows they could be making money elsewhere, but heh, this is a guy’s reunion. The glory days.

“I heard stories I haven’t heard in 30 years,” Mr. Mitchell said. “I heard how great some guys were and they were only so-so.”

After dinner, one of the Hall of Famers was spotted with his own Wheaties box under his arm. And what was he planning to do with it ? “Sell it on EBay and give the profits to my own charity,” he said.

Stephanie Mansfield

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