I have considered writing this column for more than a year. I wanted to do a feature on a man I met about six or seven years ago, but there were several hurdles I had to overcome to make the column work and to do this person justice.
First off, the story has very little to do with sports. But there is a sports element, so I can get past that issue. Secondly, and most importantly, the subject of this column is an extremely private person who prefers to remain anonymous. In fact, for the first time I can think of, I am doing a feature on a person who has no idea I am writing about him, and if he did know, he would probably tell me not to do the story.
Well, to take care of that problem, I will do something else I have never done; I will not reveal this man's name.
Why write a story where all these restrictions come in to play? Well, the answer to that question will become quite evident as you read the column.
As I said, I met an incredible individual several years ago. I was in the middle of a fundraiser during my radio show. It was a "radio-thon" for the Tournament of Wishes, a golf tournament benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation I started more than a decade ago with former Jones Creek head golf pro Brent Smithers.
One way we raised extra money for Make-A-Wish was to have my radio listeners, who could not play in the event, call in and pledge money for every stroke under par my team scored during the event.
While most people were pledging a dollar or two per stroke, a man called during a commercial break and said he would donate $50 per stroke. In these types of events, teams can often shoot -20 under par, so that pledge could be worth more than $1,000.
First, I made sure the caller was clear on how much money he was pledging. He gave me all his information and assured me he was on the "up-and-up." When he gave me his name, I remembered he had donated the previous year. He had pledged a generous amount, but a fraction of what he was pledging at that moment.
He also said he had one request to which I quickly agreed: He did not want anyone to know who had donated the money. I was stunned. First, you had a person donating such a sizable amount, and on top of that, he did not want any recognition for his good deed.
During the next few years, anytime I had an event or charity I was helping with I could count on a phone call. Those calls often went like this:
Him: "I hear you need some money. How much do you need?"
Me: "Anything you can do will help, but our goal is..."
Him: "OK, I will stop by in the next few days."
Each time he did not want his named mentioned. He would always bring me an envelope (with his name blacked out) and wish me luck with the event. He would call me off-air during the Austin Rhodes Show from time to time and ask if I had any events coming up, always willing to lend a hand.
As we talked through the years, I learned a few things about the man. He was a former fighter pilot. He was married and lived in Columbia County. He was extremely intelligent and he owned two highly successful businesses. He was also a history buff, and seemed to have interesting stories and facts about almost any topic discussed on the show. And the overriding trait about my new friend was his incredible generosity.
On one occasion, he asked if I had any projects I was working on, and I told him about some local athletes who had an opportunity to go to a prestigious football camp. The problem was that the boys' families could not afford the cost to send the kids to Orlando, Fla. Not only did he offer to pay the entry fee for some of the kids, he also gave all eight of the young men spending money so they could enjoy themselves while they were there.
Last Christmas he called me after hearing a promotion regarding a charity to help needy families during the holidays. He gave me a check for several thousand dollars, and instructed me to pick out three charities of this type. I was to take half the money and split it between the charities and use the other half to cover the cost of my all-star games for the year. The fact that one person was so kind yet wanted no attention for his good deed was remarkable.
I have always wanted to do something for him. However, with him wanting to remain anonymous, I could not invite him to one of my events or mention him in a program. I could buy him a gift, but what do you get a man who truly has everything?
Well, as this holiday season approached I thought I would share this story with you and let you know that there really are angels on Earth. My friend is proof of that. He has given countless amounts of money, never wanting the glory. He simply has done well in life and wanted to help a few others.
I guess I am really writing this column to thank him for his friendship and to let him know his amazing generosity is immensely appreciated. He has truly been a blessing to me and hundreds of young people.
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