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Croquet tournament gives back to the community

Giving back to the community doesn't have to be hard work. In fact, it can be lots of fun, especially if you choose to join in the 17th annual Conyers Cherry Blossom Charity Croquet Tournament. Sponsored by the Heartland Woman's Club, the tournament raises several thousand dollars each year for two local charities - one in Rockdale County and the other in Newton.

"Our intention is to try and get local people involved and to promote the game of croquet," said Debby Vanderbunt, Heartland Woman's Club co-president and event organizer. "It's a fast easy game and anybody can pick it up."

For an entry fee of $50, a participant gets to play at least four rounds of golf croquet, receives lunch and breakfast and is invited to a post-game party. The event also includes prizes for best croquet costumes and top finishers, as well as a silent auction featuring paintings by local artists, books, gift baskets and jewelry.

The event takes place this year on March 29 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Georgia International Horse Park's Steeplechase field, located on Centennial Olympic Parkway across from the Hawthorn Suites and Golf Resort hotel.

An open grassy infield area set along the Yellow River, Steeplechase field has been the setting for the croquet tournament for the past two years. Holding the tournament within GIHP during one of the two days of the Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival (March 29 and 30) allows participants to visit the festival with relative ease.

"We like it because it's accessible and it's easy to tell people how to get there and the Horse Park staff is so good to work with," said Vanderbunt.

The tournament will be played under golf croquet rules, in which four wickets are played in every game, as opposed to the usual six- or nine-wicket arrangement, and each round lasts about 20 minutes. The event will host up to 64 two-member teams playing in a round robin format. The event is open to ages 10 and up.

"Anyone can learn to play the day of the event," said Vanderbunt.

The tournament typically generates between $5,000 and $6,000. Past beneficiaries include the Humane Society of Newton County, the Rockdale House for Women, Rockdale Emergency Relief Fund, AIDS Gwinnett (which serves Rockdale and Newton counties), the Abbey Hospice, the Newton County Library, the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation's annual Camp Oo-U-La, Elks Aidmore Children's Center and the Crossroads Psychoeducational Program.

This year, proceeds will be split between the Rockdale Senior Services' Olivia Haydel Senior Center, which is expanding and requires funds for new items, and the Friends of Newton Parks, which is currently working to fund a new park scheduled for construction across the street from the Newton County Library.

A service organization, the Heartland Woman's Club (formerly the night group of the Covington Woman's Club), is comprised of members from both Rockdale and Newton counties.

For more information on the Cherry Blossom Charity Croquet Tournament, contact Debby Vanderbunt at 770-786-5002 or Debbie Swords at 770-388-7166.

SideBar: If You Go

What: 17th Annual Conyers Cherry Blossom Charity Croquet Tournament

When: Saturday, March 29 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Georgia International Horse Park's Steeplechase field, located on Centennial Olympic Parkway across from the Hawthorn Suites and Golf Resort hotel

Cost: Entry fee is $50 and includes breakfast, lunch and at least four rounds of croquet. Proceeds benefit the Rockdale Senior Services' Olivia Haydel Senior Center and the Friends of Newton Parks.