By Kate Skinner
Sitting in a large office, with comfortable chairs and dark wood paneling, it’s impossible to escape the feeling that behind the desk sits a very important person. But what truly makes the first impression memorable is not the decor, but the warm and welcoming smile its owner wears.
Coach Gary Blair, head coach of the Women’s Basketball Team at Texas A&M University, sits ready to chat about the upcoming 11th Annual Celebrity Golf Classic and Celebration Dinner and Auctions, taking place on May 1 and 2. Blair hosts the Golf Classic to raise funds for Coach Blair Charities, and ultimately raise awareness and funding for the Special Olympics and other youth-oriented programs that serve special needs individuals.
“How do you make a life for someone who has a brilliant mind, but is physically handicapped? Or, the Special Olympian who loves you unconditionally, and asks nothing in return? So many of us are so blessed, and we need to find more time to give, not just monetarily, but of ourselves,” says Blair. For him, giving his time and energy to benefit those children and families facing special needs has become a way of life.
The golf tournament is something of a tradition for Blair. This past year was his 20th annual event, a year span dating back to his career at the University of Arkansas. As he described why the special needs community has such an important place in his life, he repeated over and over a single sentiment: “I want to give back; I want to give the time and the effort.”
“I remember growing up as a kid watching the Jerry Lewis telethons, hearing stories about young persons growing up,” Blair recalls. “Afterwards, I’d walk away; I wouldn’t think about it…My best friend coaches at Northwestern and has two beautiful daughters, and a son with special needs. The family has had to make such great sacrifices for him. I want to find out what’s going on in his world. I want to give back [to the special needs community], get in their shoes, just give ‘em a hug. It’s not the money that can do that. It’s in the time.”
Blair says this is something he feels called to do, and as a public figure, he wants to use his influence to inspire others to also give back. “During these type of events, we give hope. Hope that a person may rise above where they are, and they can be that special athlete- be the best that they could be,” says Blair.
Janice Buchanan, a sponsor and committee member for the Celebrity Golf Classic, shares her similar reasons for serving. “I met a gentleman who introduced me to his special-needs daughter in 1986. I was involved from then on,” says Buchanan. She credits Blair with inspiring her to do more, by becoming involved with the golf tournament. Buchanan explained that Blair’s personality, commitment, dedication, and sincerity are what really make the Golf Classic a success.
At the close of the conversation, Blair again smiled saying, “I wish more people would come out and see what’s going on here. You don’t have to play golf to enjoy. Just learn about the lives of these kids and share your life with them.”
WHAT, WHEN, WHERE
The Celebrity Golf Classic will take place at the Traditions Golf Club and is a scramble format. Teams of four will be paired with a celebrity, coach, or athlete from around the country. Cost for individual players is $250, or $1,000 will reserve a team of four. Flight times are Thursday, May 1, at 12 noon, and Friday, May 2, at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for each flight and on-course contests as well.
The Celebration Dinner and Auctions are Thursday, May 1, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Brazos County Expo. All golfers are invited and may bring one guest. A $10 donation is requested at the door and includes dinner and drinks. There will be silent and live auctions with a wide variety of items available.
Ranging from $150 to $7,500, the Celebrity Golf Classic offers a variety of individual and corporate sponsorship levels. For sponsorship and registration information, or to make donations securely online, visit coachblaircharities.org.