Tailgate in style

Hearing and Speech Foundation fundraiser has party in the skybox

When the Vols take the field against LSU Saturday, Amanda Womac is hoping there will be 250 fans cheering them on in Neyland Stadium.

Yes, 250 fans.

Yes, Neyland Stadium.

Don’t worry. Womac isn’t confused. The 250 fans she is courting will watch the Vols -- who are playing in Baton Rouge -- in the East Club Skybox of Neyland Stadium on the skybox’s big television screens as they are wined-and-dined, UT skybox style.

The event, the Fourth Annual Away-Game Tailgate Party, is a benefit for the Hearing and Speech Foundation.

Perks of the Away-Game Tailgate Party include a catered meal in the skybox and a visit and half-time presentation by UT fan favorite and All-American Larry Seivers, along with information about the Hearing and Speech Foundation presented by special clients and founder John Berry.

The doors to the skybox open at 2:30 p.m., an hour before the Vols kickoff at 3:30 p.m.

Womac, foundation executive director, said the annual Away-Game Tailgate is the foundation’s biggest fundraiser of the year and helps bring awareness of the work the Foundation does to provide the gift of sound to people in the community.

“Attendees will have the opportunity to meet Foundation patients and learn first-hand their experiences with living in a world of silence,” she said. “This unique fundraiser provides a great opportunity for folks to tour the East Club Skybox of Neyland Stadium while watching the Vols on a wall of TVs.”

The foundation executive director encourages folks to come hungry for a great meal. “Your ticket price of $100 per person covers a lavish buffet and, just when you think you’ve had enough, halftime hot dogs and BBQ are served,” she said. “Adult beverages are provided by Woodruff Brewing Company to top off the Tailgate tradition.”

Womac encouraged folks to come see Seivers during the Away Game Tailgate. She has done her research in getting to know the All-American, saying that Seiver’s most memorable catch was against Clemson in 1974 on a 2-point conversion. UT won the game by one point. Seivers ranks as the sixth all-time receiver at UT with 1,924 receiving yards and seventh with 117 receptions. Seivers caught the winning touchdown from Randy Wallace in the 1974 Liberty Bowl and was a consensus All-American and All-Conference in 1975 and 1976.

This is the second year a special guest has been on hand to visit with folks attending the fundraiser. Former UT football coach Johnny Majors entertained guests during the 2009 event. Seivers laughed when he shared his reaction to being asked to attend as special guest.

“They told me last year they had Johnny Majors, and when John Hinkle called, I assumed they couldn’t find anybody else,” he said. “I’m quite a drop off from Coach Majors!”

Seivers, who graduated from Clinton High School, said he always has mixed emotions when his alma mater plays LSU. While he was playing with UT against LSU in 1975, he made his first touchdown catch as a college player. The game, however, ended in a loss.

“I actually didn’t catch a lot of touchdowns, but my first touchdown catch was at LSU on a Saturday night,” he said. “We got beat that night. It was a good memory going down there and playing and having some individual success, but we didn’t have success as a team.”

Seivers said that before he was approached about doing the fundraiser, he knew nothing about the Hearing and Speech Foundation, but he said hearing loss has hit close to home in his own family.

“It hit close to home because both my mom and dad have hearing aids,” he said. “They are fortunate to be able to afford them, but it is good to know there is an organization dedicated to helping those who can’t. I can’t imagine people not being able to hear for financial reasons.”

Womac said all proceeds from the fundraiser go to support the Hearing and Speech Foundation’s mission of empowering individuals with communication deficits to live their lives to the fullest. “Over 650 individuals in 27 East Tennessee counties benefit from our services and thousands have benefitted over the foundation’s 30 year history,” she said.

During the half-time, Seivers said he will talk about his playing days at UT and how the leadership lessons he learned on the field translated into being a leader in the business community.

Seivers played at UT from 1973 to 1976, and his teammates named him captain in the 1976 season.

“Back then, the teammates elected you, and that to me was the greatest honor I ever received,” he said.

Seivers said he was honored to be elected co-captain with linebacker Andy Spiva. “He played 100 percent all the time. Being able to walk out there with him was a neat thing. I like having that by my name,” he said. “I don’t brag about anything but that is probably something I would brag about if I did.”

Seivers was 23 when he finished school and wrapped up his playing career. “I thought I’d play pro football 10 or 15 years and retire everything would be great, and it didn’t work out that way. I was like everyone else -- getting out of school trying to make it,” he said. “What I learned in football in leadership skills led me to where I am now. I’ve basically been in business for myself or with a partner and running a small business for over 20 years.”

Until 1978 when he sold his business, Seivers owned and operated with approximately 26 employees Seivers Vending Services. After the sell of his business, he acquired Five Star Food Service, a conglomerate of vending businesses in seven states. He now is involved with TnWaste and is co-owner and onsite manager of the Riverside C & D landfill in Knox County.

The former wideout said he understands his role is to lead and serve and he tries to live up to it. “I know that’s what I’m supposed to be when I walk in a room. I’m supposed to lead, and it comes from walking on that football field in the same way,” he said.

Tickets for the Away-Game Tailgate Party will be available for all who call by 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1. Guests can pay by credit card over the phone and have tickets waiting for them at the skybox on Saturday. Entrance to the East Club Skybox is at Gate 26. Parking is available in Lot G10 off Neyland Drive, near the skybox entrance.

The 2010 Away-Game Tailgate sponsors are: Woodruff Brewing Company, Downtown Grill and Brewery, Mrs. Roma Renfro, Blount Hearing and Speech Services, Mrs. Carol Luckey, Widex Corporation, Phonak Hearing, The Flower Pot, Hickory Construction, Creekside Fine Wines and Spirits, Pilot Travel Centers, Mrs. Kathy Bennett, M.A., CCC-SLP, Staffing Solutions, East Tennessee Medical Group, Ingram, Overholt & Bean, and the Knoxville Animal Clinic. Media sponsors are Blount Today, Charter Cable and WBIR-TV.

For information visit http://bit.ly/9SkIsv, or call 865-977-0981 to make reservations.

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