Golfing for a cause: RISE hosts annual fundraisers | #specialneeds | #kids

The RISE Center, an early childhood education program at the University of Alabama, hosted its largest annual fundraisers, a golf tournament and silent auction, from April 20 to April 21, to help maintain RISE as a cost-free school for students with special needs. 

According to the RISE Tournament of Champions newsletter, The University of Alabama funds 50% of the costs for RISE, which is part of the College of Human Environmental Sciences. Through fundraisers and partnerships with local school systems, RISE provides free tuition for students with special needs. 

At the RISE Tournament of Champions golf tournament, teams of four entered for $2,750 per team and had morning and afternoon tee times at the NorthRiver Yacht Club.

Nick Saban and the Stallings team, which was made up of former Alabama football players, supported RISE by playing in the tournament.

Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats also supported RISE by speaking at lunch on the second day of the tournament and to players on the golf course. 

“As a program, we are all about supporting what RISE stands for,” Oats said. “What they do for the community is big, and I think it’s really important.” 

Each team could pay $100 for a UA women’s golfer to hit the tee shot for their team. 

“It’s a great cause, and we love to support them,” said Angelica Moresco, a kinesiology masters student and UA women’s golfer who hit for teams throughout both days. “It’s really special and close to us, so it means a lot.” 

Thursday evening, RISE hosted “CHIP In for RISE,” which consisted of a silent auction and cocktail reception. Tickets were $50 per couple or $30 per individual, and included two drinks, hors d’oeuvres and access to the silent auction.

Former Alabama football coach Gene Stallings, a long-time supporter of the RISE Center, spoke at the event and encouraged attendees to bid for the items.

“The RISE program was my very favorite program,” Stallings said. “You people that are bidding on these items, I hope you win. I hope you get what you bid for, but you remember that the real winner is the RISE program.”

Stallings told stories of his son, John Mark Stallings, who had down syndrome and worked at the RISE Center while Stallings coached at Alabama. He also said he regularly toured his personal guests around the RISE Center.

“To this day, it’s one of my favorite places to go and visit,” Stallings said. “I can’t tell you the difference that this program makes on the people who have a child with special needs.”

The silent auction bidding started online on Monday, April 18 and concluded after the cocktail reception on April 21. The auction included handmade art by students at RISE, tickets to sporting events, signed sports memorabilia and baskets of toys. 

Some RISE students’ guardians paid for their student’s photo to be displayed at both the golf tournament and the silent auction. The cut-out photos surrounded the rooms and silent auction items.

The RISE Center also hosted the RISE Tournament of Champions ladies’ tennis tournament on Tuesday, April 12, where 36 teams played doubles tennis for $150 per team.

“We are grateful for the support we receive from the community, The University of Alabama, the athletic department, our staff, our volunteers and our families,” said Andi Gillen, the director of the RISE Center. “The Tennis and Golf Tournament of Champions and CHIP In for RISE allow us to continue to provide much needed therapies to our children with special needs at no cost to their families. We are the only RISE program left in the country that is able to do this thanks to our fundraising events.”

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