Steve Stilts says he fears people are groaning when they see his phone number on their Caller ID screens. He keeps dialing, however, because its for a cause he believes in.
Stilts is recruiting sponsors for his second annual SlimFest. In 2006, the free community outdoor concert and reverse raffle raised $30,000 to benefit the Fraternal Order of Polices Shop with a Cop program.
This year the event benefits both the F.O.P. and the New Hope Childrens Advocacy Center.
"Everyone hates to see my phone number call on their Caller ID," he said with a smile. "My wife, Donna, said its a difficult undertaking but a wonderful cause."
Response helps ease the discomfort, however. "Everyone seems to be ready and willing to support our efforts and the charities," he said.
The original idea behind the event was to have a party to celebrate Stilts 50th birthday in 2006. Stilts spoke to Maryville Police chief Tony Crisp and Blount County Sheriff James Berrong and learned about the work that members of the F.O.P. do to make sure under-privileged children have Christmas gifts through the Shop with a Cop program.
"It struck my heart, and I wanted to do something to help them," he said.
So in August of 2006, Stilts and a crew of volunteers roped off a parking lot on Gill Street in Alcoa, set up a stage and had a full day of music and entertainment. They also did a reverse raffled for a new Saturn. Hickory Construction vice president Jim Pack won the $14,000 car and donated it back to the F.O.P.
Stilts, also known as Slim, said that first SlimFest brought out about 400 people and $40,000.
"Last year, after the expenses and everything, there was $30,000 given to the charity," he said.
SlimFest will be bigger this year, Stilts said, which will mean more expenses to cover and a goal of still raising $30,000, he said.
"This year were going to have more expenses because were going with more entertainment and the VIP tent area," he said. "Still, were trying to raise $15,000 for each."
With a new location and an additional new sponsor, Stilts is hoping for more than 2,000 people for the outdoor concert. SlimFest 2007 is planned for Aug. 4 at the amphitheater in New Midland Plaza.
"I dont know that many people know about that stage in the amphitheater in New Midland Plaza across from Hall Salvage," he said. "Were excited about the new venue."
Halls Salvage is also one of the new sponsors for the event. Just this past Saturday, April 28, Halls Salvage owner David Hall participated in a fund raiser for a childrens advocacy center in Campbell County that raised $20,000.
"Every community where we have a store, we try to pick at least one, sometimes two, major charities we can get involved with and make a significant impact," said David Hall. "I have four kids, who are the greatest gifts God has ever given to me.
I just feel called to help support these advocacy centers to try to make a positive change on the lives of kids less fortunate."
Jarrod Millsaps, community outreach director with Blount County Sheriffs Office, was enthusiastic about this years event. "I think its going to be awesome. Were moving to a larger venue. We have a stage, and its going to be another great fundraiser for two great organizations in Blount County that benefit kids," Millsaps said.
Trudy Hughes, executive director of the New Hope Childrens Advocacy Center, was thankful for Stilts willingness to organize the concert and to share the proceeds with New Hope. "Any funds raised just means that many more child victims and their families that we can provide services to. We hope the community will really get behind Steve and all his friends helping him with this event," she said.
Stilts said he was moved to include the New Hope Childrens Advocacy Center in the benefit because of the work they do to assist abused children. "For the kids who have been abused, and the staff and folks who help them, I just wanted to help raise money to help with those things," he said. "The way we had it planned out, one of the slogans we came up with is: "For the Kids and the Ones Who Protect Them."
Alcohol will be available to those of legal age within a cordoned off area at concert. Food vendors such as Texas Roadhouse and Hooters will provide food.
A new 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt is to be raffled off this year. Raffle tickets are $100 each, and the organizers will sell a limited number. The raffle will be a reverse raffle with the winner being announced on stage the night of the party.
For information or for tickets, call 984-KIDS.