Heath Shuler is ready to root for the Vols when they travel to The Swamp to take on the University of Florida Gators on Sept. 17. He wants about 200 fans to join him to watch the game.
Hanging out with the former University of Tennessee/NFL quarterback and current U.S. Representative from North Carolina won’t require a 10-hour drive to Gainesville. Shuler is the celebrity host for the 2011 Away Game Tailgate to benefit the Hearing and Speech Foundation.
The event will begin at 2:30 p.m., one hour before the 3:30 p.m. kickoff on Sept. 17, in the East Club Skybox at Neyland Stadium.
Shuler said his aunt, Avis Phillips, is very involved in the foundation, which provides hearing aids at low or no-cost to needy families, as are other friends and family he has in Tennessee. “They had asked me to help host the event, and I said yes because it benefits an incredible cause. It gives the opportunity for hundreds of East Tennesseans who may not be able to afford hearing aids the opportunity to get them,” he said. “It gives them the option to receive help and support. There is a lot of technology involved in it, and I couldn’t think of a better foundation to help out.”
Shuler said that while he doesn’t personally have family struggling with hearing loss, in his job he frequently sees people who deal with hearing loss, especially as they get older. The Hearing and Speech Foundation helps people in need, especially when insurance doesn’t cover the cost of hearing aids. “It can be burdensome on family finances and this is an opportunity to help those in need,” he said. “That is why we are here, to help those in need who may have the misfortune to not hear 100 percent or not at all.”
Shuler said this is one of the foundation’s largest fundraisers each year. “It has helped 700 people in 27 East Tennessee counties to be able to receive funding or aid, so obviously it goes for a great cause,” he said of proceeds from the Away Game Tailgate.
In addition to seeing a good game, Shuler said folks will enjoy the accommodations. “So many people don’t get the opportunity to be in the sky box,” he said. “This gives people the opportunity to be able to help the foundation and to experience Neyland Stadium in the sky box.”
Shuler said that even though it is an away game, there are large screen televisions in the sky box. “There will be a lot of Tennessee Volunteer fans rooting their team to victory,” he said.
Amanda Womac, executive director of the Hearing and Speech Foundation, said The Away Game Tailgate is a unique experience. “It is an opportunity for individuals to watch a game in the luxury of the East Club Skybox,” she said. “It is also a great opportunity to come out and support your hometown community and individuals with hearing needs.”
Growing up in the Knoxville-Maryville area, Womac said Heath Shuler was the all-star football player when she was younger. “That to me is special because he embodies UT football,” she said. “I appreciate his willingness to take time out of his busy schedule to help out a good cause.”
Tickets are $100 each and come with two complementary beverage tickets.
“There will be a lavish buffet, with gator bites on order. We’ll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the foundation, and we’ll have birthday cake as well as handcrafted Woodruff Brewing Co., beer from the Downtown Grill and Brewery,” Womac said.
Womac said there will be a silent auction. “We’ve got some real exciting items. Individuals have an opportunity to bid to be a fighter pilot for a day, take a group of friends and experience Mardi Gras from a balcony on Bourbon Street or take a shopping spree to Bloomingdales with a personal shopper and a best friend,” she said.
Shuler said he is impressed with the Tennessee football team this year and looks forward to seeing them play Florida.
“I went to the game against Montana and thought they played extremely well. I think expectations are greater than they were last year,” he said. “We have a lot of experience we did not have last year, especially on the offensive line. Coach Dooley has done an outstanding job preparing them and getting them ready for the next game.”
The Away Game Tailgate Party tickets are available by calling the foundation at 865-977-0981. For information, email Womac at Amanda@handsf.org.