Published Friday, October 05, 2012

Canongate Golf and YMCA team up for kids

From Special Reports

A weekend camping trip as a child is the reason Joe Guerra is committed to providing similar opportunities to kids today.

Newnan resident and CEO of Canongate Golf Courses/Sequoia Holdings, Guerra says his first Y experience was camping in California with a group of 30 fourth and fifth graders. “That was the first time my parents allowed me to be away from home without a relative,” recalls Guerra. “It was primitive camping, and it was the most exciting thing I did as a kid.”

This camp memory guides Guerra’s corporate commitment to philanthropy and to his community, which is to “maximize your potential to do all you can to make your community better.” Guerra’s corporate philosophy is demonstrated with the upcoming YMCA of Metro Atlanta’s second annual golf event.

It is Atlanta’s largest nonprofit golf event. More than 750 Atlanta golfers will play at one of four Canongate Golf Courses on Monday and Tuesday. Proceeds from the golf event go the Y’s annual campaign, which enables local Ys to offer financial assistance to those who express an inability to pay for Y programs.

The golf event raises money to help ensure young children are prepared to start kindergarten, school-age kids are receiving academic enrichment and curbing obesity, and teens are developing into community cause-driven leaders. Guerra is waiving standard tournament fees, so 100 percent of the proceeds go to these Y causes.

“This event is highly relevant,” he says. “The impact in local communities is immediate, and it can last a lifetime. Everyone can participate in Y programs because of the annual campaign, and those receiving assistance are not differentiated in any way. I see first-hand how the Y makes a difference for kids and teens in my community. That’s why I want to raise as much as possible through this golf event.”

Last year’s inaugural event attracted 500 golfers. “Canongate employees fully participated in a joyful experience and made the four Y tournaments happen in a big way,” according to Guerra. “An investment in our community like this helps to align our company’s behaviors and beliefs with our corporate values. This is especially important for our Canongate members and employees.”

Guerra is a longtime Y supporter. He was a Y member in California and immediately joined the Summit Y when he moved to Newnan. Soon he became an active policy volunteer, serving on the local board while the full-facility, family Y was built. He also got involved in an annual Summit Y golf tournament, and in a few years it was the most dynamic and successful in south Atlanta.

He was elected to the YMCA of Metro Atlanta’s board of directors in 2008, and Guerra’s passion to make more of a difference was ignited. “This Y board uses every member’s expertise, ideas and strategic thinking. It is time well spent, not a place card or a who’s who,” he says.

The idea of a two-day, regional golf event was born out of Guerra’s desire to maximize his potential to do even more. He realized the human and physical resources at Canongate could be used in a larger capacity, and he was willing to take a chance on it. The result – more children participating in positive, supervised values-based Y programs – is highly relevant and impactful to him. It is good for the community, but it also is personally rewarding.

Guerra wants to demonstrate his commitment to philanthropy to other corporations, so they can share their human, physical and capital resources to benefit the community. “Writing a check to an organization is fine,” Guerra says. “But, is there more that can be done? I would challenge any CEO there is more, no matter what a company’s cause.”

Ed Munster, president and CEO of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, says Guerra is an exemplary civic leader because his passion and his business acumen unite to benefit others. “Joe sets the best example of a corporate citizen, because he is not satisfied with the status quo.

“He has the ability to take a pleasurable experience – playing golf for four or five hours of fun and camaraderie – and maximize that for the benefit of others. Joe also has the vision and insight to take a typical nonprofit golf tournament and turn it into something extraordinary.”

Guerra says his professional and civic commitments are personal because they connect back to what he enjoyed as a child. “I believe each of us is passionate about giving back when it involves something you love. It’s all the more powerful when there’s a story behind the action,” he says.

The YMCA of Metro Atlanta believes all people, especially children, deserve an equal chance to reach their full potential and all people, especially children, should prepare themselves to connect to and serve community.

Become part of the Y’s regional golf event by playing or becoming a sponsor. Tournaments will take place Monday at Canongate 1 in Sharpsburg, Smoke Rise in Stone Mountain and Windermere in Cumming. Tuesday’s tournament is at Eagle Watch in Woodstock. The cost is $100 per player per course. For more information, go to or call the Y at 404-267-5368.

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