Supporters of Smith County Area Go Texan packed the inside of the Harvey Hall Convention Center in Tyler Saturday, July 21, for the fifth annual Smith County Area Go Texan Scholarship Gala fundraiser event.
“We had a great event again this year,” said Gary Hettenbach, member of the Smith County Area Go Texan and board member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. “Naturally, we couldn’t do what we do without the efforts of our committee members, whom I deeply appreciate. My absolute thanks goes out to each and everyone that attended and helped to support our Smith County AGT goal of raising scholarship money for the youth of Smith County.”
This year’s Smith County Area Go Texan scholarship gala event drew a capacity 400 attendees for the fifth consecutive year.
At the event, attendees were treated to a three course Italian dinner catered by 1836 Texas Kitchen in Tyler, serving beef and chicken fajitas with all the Tex-Mex fixings.
Musical headliner for the evening was the Frankie Ray Band, a local area Texas Country band covering many Country artists including George Strait and Garth Brooks, as well as many of their original songs.
The highlight of the event was the live auction, with local personality Jim Bob Lindsey serving as the event’s auctioneer again this year.
Live auction items included the 2017 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion paintings, field level tickets to the 2018 HLSR for any performance, Yamaha electric guitar, a dinner party for eight at 1836 Texas Kitchen, and more.
Attendees were also able to bid on items throughout the night during the silent auction, featuring items such as decorative items, baseball tickets, and donated items from area businesses.
The silent auction also featured several autographed jerseys and balls from many well-known figures in the world of sports, including J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, Tyler’s own football star Earl Campbell, Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers, Golden State Warriors NBA Champion Steph Curry, and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Also featured in the silent auction were autographed frames by singers of all genres, including George Strait, and the late Merle Haggard, among others.
“Our auction this year was incredible,” said Hettenbach. “With the money raised just from the auction this year, we will be able to provide more Smith County students with scholarships at next year’s event. With the aution and ticket sales, we were able to raise over $49,000 this year. We hope our future events will continue to exceed the previous year’s efforts.”
The leadership of the Smith County AGT organization also presented a total of eight $5,000 scholarships to Smith County area agriculture students for the upcoming year.
Class of 2018 graduates from Bullard High School presented with scholarships from Smith County Area Go Texan included Kathryn Kuczkowski and Conner White.
Kuczkowski, daughter of Kristen and Peter Kuczkowski, will attend Texas A&M University – College Station and study biomedical engineering, while also playing in the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.
White, son of Tisha and Kerry White, also plans to attend Texas A&M and hopes to major in aerospace engineering.
In addition to the Bullard graduates, Katherine Dulany, an alumna of The Brook Hill School, also was announced as a recipient of a scholarship through Smith Country Area Go Texan.
Dulany, daughter of Ken and Lori Dulany, will attend Baylor University in Waco and major in corporate communications.
Other winners of $5,000 scholarships from Smith County Area Go Texan included Addison Baquet (Lindale High School/University of North Texas), Courtney Eeds (Whitehouse High School/Texas A&M University), Natalie Lim (Grace Community School/University of Texas), Katherine McLeod (Whitehouse High School/Southern Methodist University), and John Womack (Troup High School/Texas A&M University).
Shayna Ballin (Whitehouse High School/Texas A&M University) was the big winner of scholarship money from Smith County Area Go Texan this year, earning herself a $20,000 scholarship from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Smith County Area Go Texan also honored a total of two previous scholarship winners with an extension of $2,500, presented locally to BHS Class of 2016 graduate Spencer Dempsey.
Dempsey, son of Floyd and Gloria Dempsey, is currently attending Texas A&M University and majoring in manufacturing and mechanical engineering.
Also taking home a $2,500 scholarship extension from the organization was Sara Bass (Winona High School/Stephen F. Austin State University.
The Smith County Area Go Texan committee was formed in 2014 and has presented over 40 recipients with a total of $277,000 in scholarships.
A number of local graduates have benefitted from scholarships through Smith County Area Go Texan in recent years, including Hunter Ganske, Erin Johnson, and Hannah Lloyd in 2017 ($5,000 each); Spencer Dempsey and Samantha Spiller in 2016 ($5,000 each); and Victoria Brown and Juliann Hill ($1,000 each).
Smith County Area Go Texan is an all volunteer organization which is associated with and serves to promote the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Local committee members do not chose scholarship recipients.
Current committee members include Dr. John Alexander, Duane Barber, Dr. John Camp, Kara Camp, Susan Davis, Pam Frederick, Wade Frederick, Hollie Gambino, Gary Hettenbach, Kathy Hettenbach, Ken Langley, Betty Odom, Sherri Reed, John Tucker, and Wanda Tucker.
“This year’s fundraiser was the epitome of a successful event,” said Hettenbach. “I hope everyone keeps our name on their list, and that we will see them again next year.”
Sponsors for the 2018 Smith County Area Go Texan scholarship gala included Our Family Vet Clinic (Venue Sponsor), SDS Petroleum Consultants (Band Sponsor), Lakota Energy, Risk Placement Services, and Kathy and Gary Hettenbach (Beverage Sponsors), and R&K Distributing, Holiday Inn, Brookshire’s, Kiepersol Winery, G&G Distributing, and Sherri and Don Reed (Event Sponsors).
For more information about Smith County Area Go Texan, visit www.smithcoagt.org.