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With plans to donate all proceeds to GiGi’s PlayHouse in Phoenix, Charley’s Sports Grill will host its first golf tournament Saturday, May 8, at the Sun City Country Club. 

GiGi’s PlayHouse, which opened in 2020, is an achievement center for individuals with Down syndrome. The business provides free therapeutic and educational programs that advance literacy, math skills and motor skills.

The event will include raffle prizes and an auction where participants can win a chance to play with professional golf player, Big Break Mexico Reality TV Star and Nashville recording artist, Rob West, who will also perform with his band. 

According to West, using his celebrity status to be a part of the event will be an honor.

“We’re doing it for a charity that I am very supportive of and involved with,” West said. “Our daughter Abby has Down syndrome, so I got involved doing some music for them and a music video. When Kelli (List) decided to do a golf tournament, I was 100% on board. Plus, Charley’s is like a home away from home for me.”

Kelli List, the chief accountability officer at Charley’s Sports Grill, said golf was a strategic choice of sport for the event.

“We have a lot of golfers who come in here and also the owners are golfers. We knew that we wanted to give back to our community this way,” List said. 

List said she was so inspired by GiGi’s PlayHouse that she chose it as a beneficiary. Two of its families frequent the restaurant. 

“We want to support an organization that is near and dear to our guests,” List said. “We do have two families that come in and they both have a child with Down syndrome. And one young man (with Down syndrome) really wanted to work at Charlie’s. So we said how about on Saturday mornings? He comes and we clean together. He just loves it. So, it’s just very special to us.”

Robin Lea-Amos, executive director of GiGi’s PlayHouse, said the upcoming event is critically needed as these types of events help the fund services and raise awareness.

“It is critical to us to have organizations and businesses like Charley’s who believe in us and want to provide opportunities for us to make money,” Lea-Amos said. “Everything we do is 100% free to our families. We provide about 28 programs a month and that doesn’t include the long-term things that we do.”

The life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades. The age has gone from 25 years in 1983 to 60 years, according to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Lea-Amos said this is due to increased awareness.  

“Awareness to the Down syndrome community is just as important to getting financial support,” Lea-Amos said. “When a child is born with special needs it is an immediate financial burden on a family and also usually a time burden due to the amount of therapies that child will need,.”

Awareness is the main goal for the event, according to West, as his daughter is turning 19.

“More than anything, bringing awareness to the organization and to our awesome children is really the main goal,” West said. “I couldn’t imagine not having a child with Down syndrome. It’s like having an angel in your house every day. We get to see unconditional love at its finest.”

About 161 babies a year are born with Down syndrome in Arizona, according to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. 

“We have families who have moved to Arizona just because of GiGi’s PlayHouse, because there wasn’t one where they lived. That’s very humbling to me,” Lea-Amos said. “It amazes me and humbles me on a continuous basis the length a family will go to receive services.”