“It was awesome!”
How else would Erica Howell describe the inaugural fundraising event for the nonprofit that she named the AUsome Allen Foundation?
On Feb. 6, she and husband Ricky Howell raised more than $12,000 by hosting a benefit softball tournament that drew 24 teams paying $300 each. More than 1,000 people attended the event at Holland Lake Park in Poolville.
During one of the softball games, the teams allowed special needs kids onto the field to hit the ball and run bases.
“There was not a dry eye in the stands or standing around the fields,” she said.
A raffle and auction raised money, with items including autographed memorabilia by country-and-western singers Ryan Bingham, Aaron Watson and Jaime Richards.
“Those were the big money-raisers,” Ricky Howell said. “It was a blessing to have them donate that stuff.”
The Howells,who are raising an autistic son, Allen, will use the money to send 10 kids to the Down Home Ranch summer camp in Elgin near Austin. The nonprofit 410-acre working farm offers social, educational, residential and vocational opportunities for people with disabilities. The ranch employs 80 full- and part-time employees, including more than 30 who have Down syndrome, autism or other conditions.
The couple plan to host another AUsome Allen Foundation fundraiser in July to raisie money to send 10 more kids to camp next year.
“We are hoping the event gets big enough and we raise enough money where we don’t just send them to camp but maybe pay some medical bills and maybe buy some wheelchairs or build a ramp into their house so its easier for wheelchair access,” Erica Howell said. “We would love for the foundation to grow to just help more people.”