It's a somber day on the Children's Home Society campus in Sioux Falls as the news of Mark Amundson's passing begins to sink in. Executive Director Bill Colson got the news as he was about to fly in from the Black Hills.
"Just as I was leaving my home early this morning, I got a call that told me about Mark. Of course, we're devastated. I was personally devastated, everyone at our agency is devastated, all of those families and kids that we serve," Colson said.
The connection between the Children's Home Society and Amundson goes back decades. Colson says Amundson has been paying visits with his family since the 1960s.
"His folks used to take him over to the orphanage and they'd gather up some kids from the Children's Home Society and take them home for the holidays and spend time with them on the holidays. Mark would play with those kids and get to know them," Colson said.
Colson says that Amundson would often wonder how all the children he came to know turned out. It's one of the big reasons why, after spending time on the PGA tour as a physical therapist, he had an idea about a way to help an organization so close to his heart.
"He noticed as he got to know the golfers that many of them played in charity tournaments all over, and so Mark really started thinking about ' You know what? Why not for Children's Home?'" Colson said.
Which is why, in 1995, the Orion Classic was born. It's raised over $5 million for the Children's Home Society and this year's event, just three weeks ago, was the biggest year of them all.
"Events come and go and whose to say that it won't someday go away. The reality is, though, it's Mark's legacy. It's a legacy event and we'll continue to honor Mark and Mark would want us to work this golf event to help kids and families that need it," Colson said.
It's a difficult day for anyone that knew him, but Amundson's lasting legacy is easy to see.
"There's a long family tradition of helping kids and that'll continue and Mark will be remembered as very instrumental in all of that," Colson said.
Colson says that next year's tournament will be very emotional for everyone involved, and they are now looking at ways to properly honor Amundson.