The Game of Giving Back

It took the encouragement of singer David Mason to persuade Michael Bolton to take his yearly charitable event on the road. After 17 years of benefit concerts in Connecticut, Bolton is moving his annual fundraiser to Ojai, Calif., where the inaugural Michael Bolton and Dave Mason Benefit Concert and Celebrity Golf Classic will take place on Sept. 26 with a star-studded lineup on the stage and on the links.

Bolton combines his passion for golf and his mellow love songs to raise awareness and funds for at-risk women and children through his organization, Michael Bolton Charities, a group he founded 17 years ago when he first achieved celebrity status. “I was a city kid,” he says. “As I traveled the United States and the rest of the world, I saw the same horrors facing children and women at-risk due to poverty and violence in staggering numbers. I established the Michael Bolton Charities.”

As Bolton’s celebrity status grew, charitable organizations often asked him to lend his celebrity and perform at benefits to help raise money for different causes. “He did that for a number of different organizations and after a while he just realized that maybe he should focus on issues that are important to him and start his own foundation,” says Jacqueline Smagna, executive director for the Michael Bolton Charities.

Since its launch, Michael Bolton Charities has raised more than $6 million for causes close to Bolton’s heart. At the center of the foundation’s fundraising efforts is an annual event, which began as a celebrity tennis event with Chris Evert and Andre Agassi, evolving to softball matches with Joe DiMaggio, and eventually, it grew to fill a 1,500-seat concert venue in Stanford, Conn., three years ago. This year marks the first time the foundation will tackle the West Coast, with a benefit concert and golf tournament in Southern California.

The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa will hosts the one-day event that kicks off with a golf tournament at the Ojai Country Club. The day’s itinerary includes silent and live auctions featuring musical memorabilia and a cocktail and awards reception that leads into an evening of entertainment with journalist, author, and co-host Joan Lunden as mistress of ceremonies. “She has been our master of ceremonies ever since the inception of the MBC,” Bolton says of Lunden. “She is unwavering in her commitment and no matter how full her plate is, she shows up informed and carries out her duties and the program seamlessly.” Lunden first became interested in the foundation after Bolton appeared on Good Morning America around the time his musical career was taking off. Bolton describes her as an invaluable resource who can rattle off statistics about domestic violence and at-risk women and children.