His charitable organization started off strong more than 17 years ago but the momentum has slowed in recent years. Now, Ahwatukee Foothills resident Dr. Duane Wooten hopes a golf tournament this weekend will be the first step in getting the organization back on track.

Wooten, who runs Rainbow Pediatrics in Phoenix, founded HOPE (Helping Others to Pursue Education) with his wife in 1993 after the mother of one of his pediatric patients was murdered walking into her Tempe apartment complex.

The woman was 22 years old at the time and working her way through nursing school, which eventually inspired Wooten to start his scholarship organization and help disadvantaged women pursue a career in allied health care related fields.

"When it happened, I said then that I wouldn't let her spirit die with her," Wooten said. "It was a scholarship for women that really wanted to push themselves through higher education."

Since then, Wooten has raised more than $700,000, which has helped 87 students enter and graduate college. The organization has also evolved and accepts men and women who are pursuing a degree in medical, education and performing arts.

"It's been a real blessing to me and to those who have won it and participated in it," he said. "We've graduated 87 people in 16.5 years and that is just amazing to me."

Due to difficulty in fundraising, HOPE only gave out one scholarship last year. Wooten hopes that Saturday's golf tournament at Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler will be a step back in the right direction.

"The economy has been rough on a lot of people," he said. "It's hard to ask people for checks when they are having trouble paying for their mortgage."

He has paired with NFL linebacker Ray Lewis and the organization United Athletes Foundation, which aims to increase literacy in athletes.

Wooten was contacted by UAF and flown out to meet Leshaun Armstrong, the New York boy who survived a drowning attempt by his mother in April.

"Through HOPE, I'm going to set up a scholarship for him," Wooten said.

Big name companies like Callaway, Reebok, Nike and Under Armor have jumped on board with the golf tournament. People can still sign up for the event, which costs $150 to enter.

Wooten said that in addition to a round of golf, they will receive a goody bag with an estimated $850 in merchandise, including shoes and golf clubs, courtesy of the sponsors.

"We've had corporations jumping on the bandwagon, now we just need the golfers," he said.

They are scheduled to tee off by 7:30 a.m. at the latest. If interested, you can register at the course, located at Wild Horse Pass, 5692 W. North Loop Road, by 6:30 a.m. or by emailing static.melissa@gmail.com, or calling (928) 486.0467.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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