The catalyst: Ben Sater was 3 years old when he received his first surgery on his pinky and thumb for trigger finger, a condition that causes fingers to lock in a bent position. When he was 10, he had surgery on three other fingers at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, an orthopedic facility that treats about 40,000 patients yearly, at no charge.
“He thought we forgot to pay the hospital bill after his treatments,” chuckles his mother, Kim Sater. She explains that the hospital relies on the generosity of donations from individuals, organizations, foundations, and corporations. “I was more confused than amazed,” Ben recalls. “I didn’t understand how this huge hospital could run on donations and charity events, so I wanted to give back.” He later pledged to himself that he would donate a million dollars to the Dallas hospital before going to college.
Despite his big thinking, his initial attempts to raise money were modest: car washes and lemonade stands. Sater’s parents inspired him to think a little bigger.
The act: Golf enthusiasts, Ben and his father came up with the idea of holding a children’s charity golf tournament at the sprawling courses of Brookhaven Country Club in Dallas, Texas. They formed two committees, adults and children. Kids aged 7 to 18 were asked to raise $100 to participate. Excitement increased exponentially, and so did the number of donations.
The tournament became so popular that organizers added another at the Stonebridge Ranch Country Club in McKinney, Texas.
By the summer of 2009 — his senior year in high school — Sater was more than halfway to his goal. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would raise 1 million,” says 18-year-old Sater, now a freshman at Austin College.
The ripple: Local golf professional Cameron Doan was inspired by Sater’s efforts and organized KidSwing to continue the charity fundraiser. The first tournament in Dallas raised more than $20,000, double the initial goal. “The first was so much fun and such a success, we wanted to do it again,” said Kim Sater. The next year, donations totaled $40,000. In the fourth year, the number of kids who took a swing on the green tripled. The running total: just over $500,000.
Sater started to believe that his million-dollar goal was possible. The camaraderie solidified, kids invited more kids, the community pulled together, and “everyone really wanted to see us hit our goal,” says Sater. One girl, a former patient at the hospital, raised more than $50,000.
In July 2010, KidSwing surpassed the goal, with $1,026,000, plus change. From his dorm room, Sater’s still in awe of the journey. “I can’t really explain how I got to this day — it was a series of events. I was just a 10-year-old kid with an average GPA. I just wanted to do something simple to give back.”