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Golf tournament promotes early childhood development

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Camille Hines Plante, director of Wee Warriors, takes a break signing people up for a charity golf tournament in Roswell. (Mike Smith Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

More than 100 golfers gathered at the Roswell Country Club on Saturday for a fundraiser to help MECA Therapies and the Wee Warrior Project to aid families in the Roswell area to promote strong early childhood development.

“Roswell is a big golf town,” said Camille Hines Plante, one of the organizers of the tournament. “Almost everyone golfs in Roswell, it’s a great opportunity for people to get out and have a great time, for a great cause, there’s a lot of golf courses here in Roswell. We do outreach in every community that we serve, we do something to work on a community level, a state level and a national level.”

MECA Therapies and Wee Warriors are based in Las Cruces, and they have offices in Roswell, Hobbs and Clovis. Plante is the founder of Wee Warriors, after her son was born more than 20 weeks into her pregnancy. He was in the hospital for 178 days.

“He opened our eyes to a world that we didn’t know that existed of severe medical issues. He was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for so long,” Plante said. “It was just 12 blood transfusions, he had an inguinal hernia that he had to have repaired. He had an umbilical hernia. His lungs were in really bad shape. He had to develop them completely on his own and we just started looking around and seeing and there’s just not enough help for these families, especially in New Mexico.”

Plante added that many families who have youngsters with the same issues are having to go out of state for treatment.

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“Often times we’re out of pocket, we have to go to hotels or we just have to travel,” Plante said. “Money gets very tight, especially if your child has a long stay, so I thought with some fundraising and talking to the families, we’re seeing where we can help out was the first step.”

One of the first projects for the Wee Warriors was to raise funds to put blankets in every hospital in the state of New Mexico that has an incubator.

“So we put the blankets over the incubators, that’s free for the parents to take home,” Plante said. “We provide funds for services that the children may need or medical supplies, if babies come home needing a therapeutic helmet to shape their skulls. We’ve had them wrapped professionally so they can look like Buzz Lightyear. We step in and cut down on the stigmas and provide education and peer support.”

Part of Saturday’s fundraiser had an event dedicated to a family who has ties to Roswell. The longest putt contest was played to honor the family of Tony Vasquez Jr.

“This baby was born with his heart the mirror image of what it should be and missing two chambers of his heart,” Plante said. “He’s nine months old and has had his second major heart surgery, we believe there will be several more. The family is from Roswell, they now live in Albuquerque. But, their parents still live here in Roswell. A lot of the people playing today (Saturday) went to school with the parents. So we want to support Tony Vasquez as he fights to work through these horrible heart issues.”

Plante added that Vasquez has earned the nickname “Baby Superman.”

“He’s fighting for his life and he’s doing it with a smile,” Plante said.

The money raised from the tournament will stay in Roswell according to Plante and will be used for baby necessities.

“The state level is the Wee Warriors project and on the national level, we will donate some money to the March of Dimes,” Plante said.

Last year was the first ever fundraising golf tournament for both organizations and Plante feels there was major support from the community.

“Roswell is a wonderful place to fundraise, they’re very supportive of this particular cause,” Plante said. “Roswell is very supportive of the babies in their community and their children.”

Plante said the owners of MECA Therapies, Jeff and Roberta Flores, are also responsible for organizing the tournament.

“They came up with the idea that we need to start fundraising in our communities,” Plante said. “So that people know that were there. The (New Mexico) Department of Health pays for our therapy (for babies 0-3 years of age), it’s free for any family that qualifies for our services and because we offer that, our goal is to get out in the community and let every baby have a fighting chance to reach full potential.”

Plante had an active day on Saturday signing up participants for morning and afternoon play. During lunch, she was asked if she was going to play.

“I don’t have time to play,” Plante said with a smile and laugh. “I used to (play) yes.”

Matt McDonald of Roswell was having lunch before hitting the links and he said he was invited to play.

“I try to play golf regularly,” McDonald said.

McDonald works for American Airlines in Roswell as he oversees the aircraft storage program. McDonald took up golf six years ago while living in Tulsa and he liked the purpose of the tournament.

“It’s for a good cause,” McDonald said.

Nicole Wieser of Roswell was working on her putting game before afternoon play started and she said her goal was to “win.”

“I don’t play consistently,” Weiser said. “I try to get out five times a year. It’s all for fun and charity so we can get out and have fun and support local charities.”

While Weiser was working on her putting, Lance McLeod was getting some practice in on the driving range for team Xcel Energy.

“We’re supporting this golf tournament and the charity it involves,” McLeod said. “It’s only in its second year so we came out here on this beautiful day to kind of give back and have a good time.”

Anyone who missed this year’s tournament, should start making plans for next year as the event will be held annually.