Tim Bledsoe Memorial Tournament tees up to benefit Alcoa Schools

By Lance Coleman
Blount Today

The fourth annual golf tournament to help the Alcoa City Schools Foundation is already a success and the first golfer won’t tee off until Saturday.

The Tim Bledsoe Memorial Golf Tournament planned for Saturday, June 3, has raised almost $20,000 thus far, which topped their goal by $2,000.

"We could have had more (golfers), but we ran out of carts," said former Alcoa High School and University of Tennessee standout basketball player Herman Thompson.

The fourth annual tournament is named in honor of late Alcoa City Commissioner Tim Bledsoe and benefits the Alcoa Schools Foundation. "It exist to fund things not paid for in the budget," said Blount County General Sessions Court Judge David Duggan.

Herman and Peggy Thompson, who now live in Atlanta, talked about the man for which the tournament is named.

Bledsoe, who died of cancer in 2006, was a 1956 graduate of Alcoa High School, served in both the U.S. Army and the Air National Guard. He was on the board of Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation. He also served on the Blount County Election Commission.

"The Bledsoe family is one of the largest Alcoa families. They’ve done everything," Duggan said. Several of the Bledsoes teach school in Alcoa or are administrators and coaches," Duggan said.

"They’ve been in Alcoa for years and are very active in the community and are very supportive of athletic programs in Alcoa, from youth sports on up," Duggan said. "They’ve done everything from helping run the little league to serving in city government."

Duggan said Tim Bledsoe worked tirelessly to help support the golf tournament. He was first diagnosed with lung cancer in May of 2001. He died April 9, 2006, following a long battle with cancer. The tournament was renamed in his honor at the request of Thompson.

"(Tim) really battled. He was diagnosed with lung cancer, and it looked bleak, and he wasn’t given much hope of survival," Duggan said. "He went to M.D. Anderson (Cancer Center) and pulled out of it.

"There were times we were told he wouldn’t make it through the day or week and each time he battled back," Duggan said.

Duggan said the Alcoa City Schools Foundation was the first of the three public school foundations in Blount County. Jeff White of Alcoa learned about school foundations from an Oklahoma friend while interning for Congressman John Duncan in 1989. He shared the information with Mayor Don Mull and Herman Thompson and, before long, they had formed the school foundation, Duggan said.

To get funds, teachers fill out documents requesting the money and explaining why they need it. "They’ve come up with innovative things they can use in classroom," Duggan said.

The money is used for a variety of expenses, both large and small. "We even one time provided a pair of glasses for school child," Duggan said. "We’ve done everything from that to putting computers in the classrooms."

The golf tournament is the primary fundraiser for the foundation. Other than the tournament, contributions from the public, corporations and alum are recruited. "We get a very nice contribution from Denso every year," said Duggan. "They do that for all three systems, and it is a great help."

Duggan said the foundation is hoping to someday build the fund balance up enough to where they can get by just on spending the interest from the principle. "We have no paid staff. We’re the only one of the foundations that does not have an execute director," he said.

Duggan bragged on Herman Thompson for his skills as a basketball player during his youth and also for his work for the golf tournament. Thompson was the first person from Blount County to make All-state in basketball before he went on to a career at UT.

In Herman Thompson’s last game with Alcoa, the Tornadoes were down by 7 with about one minute to go. Herman stole the ball four times and shot four times, and Alcoa beat Maryville by one, Duggan said.

Peggy, a Maryville graduate, added that that isn’t her favorite story.

Duggan said Herman Thompson was among the all-time leading scorers at UT. Herman Thompson smiled when he heard this, but wasn’t sure of his ranking now. "Maybe in the Top 20," he said. "I shot a lot."

Duggan said that when the foundation decided they wanted to do an annual golf tournament, they knew it would take somebody like a Herman Thompson for the efforts to be successful.

Herman Thompson said they were persistent. "They kept calling for money so I figured we could help them raise some," he said, with a laugh.

"We actually last year voted to name the tournament for Herman," Duggan said. "It was a short time after that that Tim died, and Herman came before the board and asked us if we would consider naming the tournament in Tim’s memory."

Loren Bledsoe, Tim’s brother, has been active in the fundraising, as has Loren’s wife, Dr. Janet Bledsoe. Peggy Thompson and Janet Bledsoe have worked together and raised a good amount of money by making backpacks, golf towels and scarves with the school colors of Blount’s schools.

The event has continued to grow the funds used to help Alcoa students. "In four years, we will have brought in $53,000," Herman Thompson said.

The fees the golf teams pay for the tournament goes to pick up the costs of the tournament, while all of the event’s sponsorship money goes to the foundation, Peggy Thompson said.

To donate to the foundation, contact Loren Bledsoe at 865-681-3919.

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