DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MEADOWLAKES — A little more than three years ago, Steven Galan and Jeff Wilson sat down to think about what they could do to help struggling families during the Christmas season. Wilson, the Hidden Falls Golf Club pro, and Galan, a local worship leader, decided to focus on one of their strengths: golf.
So they started a golf tournament — but not just any tournament. They wanted to create an experience that would benefit local families and get participants and sponsors so excited that they just couldn’t stay away from future events. In 2012, the inaugural year, the Highland Lakes Christmas Caddy Golf Tournament raised more than $13,000 and helped lift the spirits of 12 families.
It was more than Galan and Wilson really expected.
The following year, despite bad weather forcing the rescheduling of the tournament, the event brought in more than $17,000 to help 20 families.
Now as organizers prepare for the third tournament Dec. 6 at the Hidden Falls Golf Club in Meadowlakes, they are setting even higher expectations.
“This year, we believe we can help 25 families,” Wilson said. “The support has been amazing. It still amazes me that when I go out to talk to people about supporting it how quickly they say, ‘I want to be a part of that.'”
The two organizers, both with ties to Lake Shores Church in Marble Falls, didn’t want this to just be a Lake Shores’ event. When they reached out to other churches about supporting the concept, many said “Yes.” Last year, nine different churches helped with the tournament.
“This is very much Spirit-led,” Wilson said. “It’s not about one church or a group, it’s a community-wide event, which is why we call it the ‘Highland Lakes Christmas Caddy Golf Tournament.'”
Thanks to the support of sponsors, the money raised goes directly to the families who need the support during the Christmas season.
One of the things that sets this program apart from others, Wilson said, is its direct connection with local schools. Organizers reach out to campuses to identify families that need a bit of extra help.
“Who would know better than the schools and teachers which families are in need,” Wilson said.
While it does raise money for Christmas, it’s not just about buying toys.
“The first thing we do after the money is raised is buy each family an H-E-B gift card of significant value,” Wilson said. “Because who would know better about stretching every penny as far as they could than the families who are struggling.”
As for the kids, organizers haven’t forgotten about them. Volunteers with the acquisition and distribution arm of the event break up into teams and head out for some Christmas shopping. And it’s not just, “Hey, let’s grab this” or “Just throw something in the bag.”
Organizers provide each team with an information sheet about the kids for whom they are buying that includes ages, genders and likes.
“It has the hobbies the kids are into and things like that,” Wilson said. “The team members get to know the kids, so they know how to buy gifts that the kids really want.”
The funds for the kids are divided 50-50 with 50 percent for toys and similar items, while the remaining half goes to clothes, toiletries and school supplies.
“It’s not just about buying toys. This is complete help for the family,” Wilson said.
As the event grows, Wilson envisions a time when they’ll need two golf courses. But he’s not content to stop there.
“Even more than that, we’d love to share this plan with other communities and towns of similar size so they can also make a difference in the lives of so many families,” he said.
Anybody interested in playing in the tournament, sponsoring the event or helping out in any way can should call Wilson at (830) 693-3300.