New kids on the block

SlimFest adds Maryville, Alcoa booster clubs as beneficiaries of community concert

Steve “Slim” Stilts’ baby will be 5 years old on Aug. 7.

It was five years ago that Stilts and his wife, Donna, gave in to his “Slimvision” and turned his 50th birthday party from a gathering of friends to an adult community party to benefit children.

SlimFest annually draws a crowd to New Midland Plaza in Alcoa for music, dancing, food and the chance to win prizes -- including $10,000 - all while helping less fortunate children in Blount County.

This year New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center rolls off as a beneficiary and organizers are adding two high school booster clubs to join the Fraternal Order of Police’s Shop With a Cop as recipients of the money raised.

In four years, the concert has helped raise more than $300,000 for the Shop with a Cop program, the charity that captured Stilts’ heart after that first year and kept him and his group of friends and supporters coming back every year to help ensure Blount County kids have a good Christmas. This year the event organizers also reached out to help support the Maryville and Alcoa High School Athletic Booster programs.

SlimFest 2010 will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, Aug. 7, in the amphitheater in New Midland Plaza. Smooth Groove and Dixie Highway bands will return to perform this year along with a “surprise” special guest, said Stilts.

As in past years, there will be reverse drawing raffle with tickets sold in advance for $100 each, with the grand prize in the reverse raffle being $10,000. Tickets to win a 1-carat diamond pendant from Phillips Jewelry will also be sold. Dinners from area restaurants such as Puleo’s Grille and Texas Roadhouse and $50 gas cards from Kenjo will also be given away.

Sponsors this year include Blount Today, Kenjo Market, B-97.5 and Halls Salvage.

Stilts is a commercial insulation contractor, and he really never intended to give birth to a party that would grow each year and become such an integral part of the funding for Shop With a Cop and other charities.

Members of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 9 Bud Allison Memorial Chapter, use the funds to pay for a shopping spree for less fortunate 6- to 10-year-old children in Blount County for the Christmas season. Traditionally the program is meant to help needy families during the holidays while also fostering good relationships with emergency service workers and law enforcement personnel.

Stilts said he and other volunteers work hundreds of hours each year to put this event together. “But it is all worth it when you are there at Alcoa’s Wal-Mart and can watch the children Christmas shop with the officers of Blount County and the cities,” Stilts said. “I hope these children will always remember the positive relationship that they share with the police officers as they grow up. What we experience in December keeps us coming back every August.”

Stilts said that while the New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center worked successfully with SlimFest in the past, they went in a different direction for fundraising this year. After New Hope’s decision, Stilts decided to broaden his base with another 501C-3 non-profit organization, so he spoke with Maryville High School athletic director George Quarles and Alcoa High School athletic director Josh Stephens.

“I talked to George and Josh, who said they were familiar with SlimFest,” said Stilts. “They indicated they would love to play a part to not only benefit their kids but help out Shop with a Cop.”

It’s been a good partnership as planning has unfolded, although organizers are quick to make it clear that the SlimFest party is to benefit children and teens, but is not for them. Stilts said if things continue to go well, the possibility of including other schools’ booster clubs is something they want to look at.

Stilts said the funds raised will be split equally three ways. “I could see down the road where we might be able to invite all four high schools,” he said.

Quarles said the Maryville Athletic Booster club members are excited about participating in SlimFest. “Obviously, it is a big event, and the fact Alcoa High School is in there with us along with Shop with a Cop makes it three worthy causes,” he said. “Hopefully we can get all our tickets sold and get all our sponsors.”

Quarles said he know Stilts and has always been impressed with him. “We’re excited about being part of this and interested in seeing how it goes,” the coach said.

Stephens said that while the booster clubs and athletic departments at both schools are getting involved in the fundraising efforts, he stressed the importance of how the volunteers will be helping less fortunate children through Shop with a Cop as well.

“We do reap a benefit, but for us to make money and also help children through FOP, you can’t ask for much more,” Stephens said. “There aren’t many fundraisers out there where you can raise money for your organization but also help raise money to help less fortunate kids of Blount County have a good Christmas.”

Stephens said booster club members from Alcoa and Maryville also will be volunteering alongside F.O.P. members the night of SlimFest.

Brett Hall, president of the F.O.P. Lodge 9 Bud Allison Memorial Chapter, said he is excited about expanding the event to include the two booster clubs because it helps the student athletes at the two schools.

“The big thing I see is we’re helping them to do positive things in their lives. We’re supporting the future leaders of our community and this helps more kids,” Hall said. “Hopefully it will keep building year in and year out.”

Jarrod Millsaps, second vice president of the Bud Allison Memorial Lodge, said that during the 2009 Shop with a Cop, more than 100 children got the opportunity to spend $150 each for presents for themselves and family members.

The event is always festive with law enforcement, emergency service workers and volunteers helping with shopping and wrapping presents at Wal-Mart of Alcoa. The holiday event started in the late 1980s when Maryville Chief Tony Crisp and Blount County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ron Dunn worked to help provide Christmas gifts for one child who was having a rough time. Since then, the effort has grown to include elementary age children throughout the county. Each season, families have the opportunity to apply through their school or at the Sheriff’s Office for their children to participate in the program.

SlimFest came about in part because of the friendship Stilts had with Sheriff James Berrong and other members of the law enforcement community.

Millsaps said plenty of planning goes into making SlimFest a success. “It’s not an overnight production,” Millsaps said. “It takes a year of planning for it to come together, and we have two other charities now who can also help.”

For more information, to volunteer or purchase a Reverse Raffle ticket, call 865-414-2000.

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