Fundraisers are a dime a dozen. So when 8th Judicial District Attorney General Jared Effler started looking for a way to help raise funds for the child advocacy centers throughout his district’s five counties, he looked for something that was unique — something that would pull in people who would not attend an ordinary fundraiser.
Effler found his unique event with a skeet shoot, tapping into this region’s enormous interest in the outdoors and the shooting sports. And in his skeet shoot, he found a winner.
“I had some TWRA officers who were friends who shot at other fundraiser skeet tournaments,” Effler said. “They were telling me how easy it was to get folks out that you can’t get out for other fundraisers. I thought, gosh, for this area, that just seems like such a natural fit.”
And it was. The District Attorney’s Office held its first Clays For Children sporting clays tournament at the Chilhowee Sportsman’s Club in Maryville last year. It was a rousing success, and plans are currently being finalized for the second such event, which will take place in two weeks at the same location.
“We had a tremendous turnout last year,” Effler said. “We had everyone from Olympics shooters to first-time shooters.”
In all, 40 teams competed in last year’s event. There was plenty of friendly competition — First National Bank’s team members, for example, won’t hesitate to let you know that they beat the Scott County Sheriff’s Department’s team last year. But Effler said the term “tournament” is used loosely.
“It’s just a chance to get out and be outside and use the money for a very worth cause,” he said.
That very worthy cause is the child advocacy centers of the region, like the Children’s Center of the Cumberlands in Scott County.
Funded entirely by grant dollars and donations, the child advocacy centers place the 8th Judicial District at the front of the pack among rural regions when it comes to serving children who have been victims of neglect and abuse. As such, they’re close to the heart of Effler, a native of Maynardville who was elected attorney general in 2014.
“Without the Children’s Center, children who are abused and neglected would go under-served,” Effler said. “It’s that simple. History has taught us we aren’t nearly as effective as prosecutors in prosecuting abuse cases without the children’s centers.”
Effler said the child advocacy centers create a one-stop location for abused and neglected children to receive all the services and counseling they need, rather than forcing them to make multiple stops at various locations — sometimes traveling outside their home county.
“We understand that without the children’s centers we would not be nearly as effective as we are in prosecuting abuse and neglect against children,” Effler said.
To that end, the Clays for Children tournament serves a dual purpose. Every penny raised at the event goes directly to the five children’s centers across the district — and last year that was $20,000. It also helps with future grants by enabling the children’s centers to demonstrate community support for their efforts.
“Things like this are excellent to put in those grant applications, to show that community support and to show that people are buying in,” Effler said.
As such, the D.A. said he hopes for a large turnout in Maryville for this year’s event, which is slated for Friday, Sept. 29. Residents of the area do not have to be on a team to attend. There will be a lunch — the Union County High School FFA is cooking barbecue chicken — and both a live auction and silent auction, with a wide variety of items to be sold. Among them are a weekend stay at Gatlinburg, an African safari, crafts and lots of sports memorabilia, such as University of Tennessee football helmets autographed by Butch Jones.
“It’ll be a tremendous atmosphere and we look forward to all the community involvement we can get,” Effler said. “We’re trying to get the word out that we want you to come whether you’re shooting or not.”
There are still opportunities for members of the community to get involved. Effler said a limited number of slots for teams is still available — the tournament can accommodate up to 25 teams — while businesses are invited to sponsor teams and members of the community can either donate monetarily or donate items to the auction.
Chilhowee Sportsman’s Club is located on Old Railroad Bed Road in Maryville. The first flight will begin at 9 a.m. on Sept. 29, with registration at 8 a.m. The second flight will begin at 1 p.m., with lunch at 12 p.m.
The 100-shot competition will involve teams of four. The course involves 15 stations, with golf carts used to transport teams from station to station.
“I say it’s similar to a golf tournament, except that instead of riding around in a golf cart hitting balls, you can ride around and shoot skeet,” Effler said.
Last year’s event was the most successful first-year shoot the Chilhowee Sportsman’s Club has ever seen, Effler said. In just its second year, event organizers are at the point of having to decide whether they want to expand it to a two-day event for future years. And that’s just fine, because the cause is a good one.
“The cystic fibrosis shoot is the biggest shoot in this area,” Effler said. In two days, they’ll raise well over $100,000. I don’t have any aspirations of us ever getting that big, but who knows. We were very pleased with where we were last year. Our next step is to get to 45 teams, and then we’ll evaluate it and go from there.
“The support is humbling,” he said. “We have everyone from local, private donations to national corporations who are onboard.”