Children’s Charity golf tournament success

Published 5:40 am Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Course in Greenville hosted the Children’s Charity Classic golf tournament for the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches (ASYR) fundraiser, and to honor the lives of the 8 children who passed tragically in the car pile-up on I-65 in June of 2021. 

The ranch’s CEO Michael Smith said the tournament was a success and added that he was blown away by how many people showed up in support of the event, especially those who were first responders on the scene of the accident. 

“We have the coroner’s office represented here, the district attorney’s office, we have two sheriff’s offices, the Greenville police chief is here and the mayor,” Smith said. “Supporting these first responders is something very special to all of us. It’s very touching to see these men and women I saw on the day of that accident. It’s something special.”

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Smith said the youth ranch will never forget the children who lost their lives, adding that the ranch will never fully emotionally recover from that accident. 

“It took me a long time to really come to grips with this,” Smith said. “But really that day Satan was working against us. Those eight children changed their address that day, they just went to heaven.”

In the center of the dining hall at Cambrian Ridge, an empty table was set with a beautiful centerpiece of a white tree filled with doves for each child that was lost. Each place setting had a singular, glass Coca-Cola bottle with a child’s name decoratively printed on the label, which Smith said Coca-Cola generously created just for them. 

The ASYR has four ranches in Alabama currently, two for boys and two for girls, with a total of 60 youth. Smith said the children often come from very unhealthy homes, and their goal is to show these kids they are loved and to help them build a healthy and successful life.

“Over the past 12 months we have baptized 26 young people who have given their life to God,” Smith said. “We’re a Christian based organization and going to church every Sunday is the rule. This year we’ve had 17 young people receive their permit or driver’s license, we bought 20 prom dresses, we have a young man that was President of his senior class, and we just had a young man receive a full ride scholarship to Auburn for aeronautical engineering, which is the first in ranch history.”

He added that the motto has always been, “It’s easier to build boys and girls than to repair men and women.” 

Smith said the ranch hosts eight tournaments a year to raise the $1.8 million it takes to care for the 60 children, their house parents and the ranches. 

Local representatives of the Butler County Sheriff’s Department team, won second place at the tournament. The team included Josh Beverly, Josh Mclendon, Keith Taylor and Jonathan Law. They each won a two-night trip to Gulf Shores to play in the spring tournament, and each member won a $50 gift card to the Robert Trent Jones Cambrian Ridge course. 

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Lieutenant Drew Brooks was one of the first responders on the scene of the accident, and first broke the news to Smith in a supportive embrace. He said he was happy to be at the tournament and to see the turnout. 

“I’m thankful for the group of people that are here today,” Brooks said. “It’s good to see everybody come together and support the ranch.”

To donate or get involved with the ranch head to its website at www.alabamasheriffsyouthranches.org.