Supporters of Smith County Area Go Texan packed the inside of the Harvey Hall Convention Center in Tyler Saturday, July 22, for the fourth annual Smith County Area Go Texan Scholarship Gala fundraiser event.
“This was the best year ever for the Smith County Area Go Texan Scholarship Gala,” said Kathy Hettenbach, ambassador for the organization. “Through the generosity of the people in Smith County and our members, we were able to raise a total of $50,000 for our scholarship fund which goes directly back to the students of several Smith County schools. We’re working to help the next generation. It’s been amazing to see how people have responded to this fundraiser over the past four years. We’re greatly blessed as an organization, and we appreciate the support we receive.”
The annual scholarship gala event, which benefits students attending Smith County high schools, drew a capacity 400 attendees and supporters for the fourth consecutive year.
At the event, attendees were treated to a Texas barbeque dinner catered by Traditions Restaurant in Tyler, including brisket, ham, sausage, coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad, and all the fixin’s.
The musical headliner for the evening was Texas Rebellion, a local area Texas Country band covering many Country artists including George Strait, Keith Urban, and Johnny Cash, as well as many of the band’s 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 a seven day South African big game hunt, 2016 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Grand Champion School Art Print, a five-day/four-night stay in a high-rise luxury condominium in Port Aransas, four field level tickets to a Texas Rangers game against the Houston Astros, two lower level tickets to the Houston Texans preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, four field level tickets to a New York Yankees game against the Boston Red Sox, tickets to see Garth Brooks perform at the 2018 HLSR.
Attendees were also able to bid on items throughout the night during the silent auction, featuring donated items such as a Texas A&M Southwest Conference championship ring, golf for three at Eagle’s Bluff Country Club, tickets to a Rangers baseball game, and various baskets, homemade goodies, and gift certificates to local businesses.
Also included in the silent action were several award-winning pieces handmade by local FFA organizations, including a BBQ pit from Whitehouse FFA, stained porch swing from Troup FFA, and “Old Glory” metal artwork by Bullard FFA.
The silent auction also featured several autographed jerseys and balls from many well-known figures in the world of sports, including Tyler’s own Earl Campbell, Jordan Spieth, Dak Prescott, Tony Romo, Steph Curry, Nolan Ryan, Ezekiel Elliott, Emmitt Smith, Jason Witten, and Troy Aikman.
Also featured in the silent auction were autographed frames by singers of all genres, including the late B.B. King, the late Merle Haggard, Bruce Springsteen, and Lindale’s own Miranda Lambert.
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. Scholarship winners were presented by Bullard mayor and Smith County Area Go Texan supporter Pam Frederick.
Winners of the 2017 Smith County Area Go Texan Scholarships included Whitehouse students Arbab Ahmed, Tabitha Conder, and Makenzie Costlow; Bullard students Hunter Ganske, Erin Johnson, and Hannah Lloyd; Troup student Brice Martin; and Lindale student Colton Ramsey.
Additionally, Whitehouse’s Emily Sparkman and Robert E. Lee’s Carlos Villapudua were presented with their Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo scholarships totaling $20,000.
Former Smith County Area Go Texan scholarship winners from Bullard include Victoria Brown and Julian Hill (2014, $1,000), and Spencer Dempsey and Samantha Spiller (2016, $5,000).
According to Bullard FFA advisor Monty Main, his students are able to benefit thanks to the money raised in the silent and live auctions, which turns into scholarship money.
“The Smith County Area Go Texan group benefits the Bullard FFA by providing additional scholarship opportunities for students not only in our school district, but all schools in the Smith County area,” said Main. “It’s a great organization to be a part of and a great benefit to our students. We’re very blessed to have access to the additional scholarship monies made available through Smith County Area Go Texan.”
Gary Hettenbach, member of the Smith County Area Go Texan and board member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, said that the organization is already working hard to plan the 2018 scholarship gala event.
“The fundraiser was the epitome of successful this year,” said Hettenbach. “I hope everyone keeps our name on their list, and that we will see them again next year.”