COLUMBIA -- Life was wonderful for 18-year-old Kimberly Aiken, becoming the first African American from South Carolina to win Miss South Carolina. Then, just two months later she won the Miss America pageant.
However, Aiken’s life was not always so vibrant. At the tender age of 10 she was diagnosed with Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), a rare birth defect. AVM, an abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins, disrupts normal blood flow and oxygen circulation. She had to undergo surgery if she were to live.
During her illness and recovery, her family had the benefit of the generosity of the Children’s Miracle Network and the Children’s Hospitals at both Palmetto Health Richland and Duke University Medical Center. As a survivor, Aiken counts her blessings daily but she missed her annually hosted charity golf tournament last year following diagnosis of breast cancer. Today she is cancer free.
With all of this behind her, it’s not unimaginable that at the top of her social initiatives is the production of her annual Kimberly Aiken Golf Tournament, a four-man, captain’s choice public outing organized by Associations Management Services in Columbia.
This fundraiser benefits two organizations: the Miss South Carolina Scholarship, a part of the Miss America Scholarship Organization, the largest scholarship provider to young women in the world, making millions in scholarship assistance available to contestants each year, and The Children’s Miracle Network, a North American non-profit organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals, medical research and provides community awareness of children’s health issues. All of the funds are being managed under the umbrella of the Central Carolina Community Foundation, which provides management support services for each endowment invested as part of the Community Foundation’s larger pool of funds.
Thanks to the efforts of Aiken and her husband Haven (Cockerham), the annual Kimberly Aiken Golf Tournament is generating plenty of excitement in the Columbia area, while also assisting young women with reaching their educational goals and helping to fill funding gaps and save and improve the lives of as many children as possible.
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“We have had such great support for the golf tournament and are looking forward to seeing it continue to grow,” said Aiken, now 44.” All of our sponsors, many of which have been with us from the beginning, are what make this day possible.”
The Maplewood, N.J., couple have been married for 20 years and are raising two honor roll children: Russell, 17, and Camryn, 15. Each of them keeps busy holding leadership roles at school and enjoying social activities.
The Kimberly Aiken Golf Tournament will be held on Friday, June 14, at the Cobblestone Park Golf Club in Blythewood. The 27-hole golf course has been voted one of the best in the Midlands. The banquet and prize ceremony will take place in the clubhouse overlooking the 18th hole.
“The golf club is wonderful to work with and has helped us tremendously,” says Valerie, Aiken’s mother, who is also deeply involved in details with the tournament. “Since I am passionate about the Children’s Hospitals and Children’s Miracle Network, it is a pleasure to plan and participate in the tournament.”
Valerie’s mother sits on the Children’s Hospital Board at Prisma Health in Columbia. The facility is South Carolina’s first children’s hospital and has more than 150,000 children’s visits each year.
Among the notables in attendance at the tournament will be Miss South Carolina and Miss Teen South Carolina, among other invited guests.
Aiken says, “We are now in our third year and want to make this one the biggest tournaments yet. Please come out and support this worthy cause. You can either join us by registering for golf and/or consider a sponsorship package.”
Tournament registration begins at 9 a.m. and golfers will tee off at 10:30 a.m. in flights for men and women. Registration includes lunch and prizes will be awarded in several categories, raffles and other on-hole activities where players will be pleasantly surprised. Registration is open online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kimberly-aiken-golf-tournament-tickets-58185115246 and various levels of sponsorship opportunities are available.