I have always been a firm believer in giving back to your community, and that's a big reason I spent years on the board of the George A. Spiliotopoulos Invitational Tournament (GASIT), working on raising scholarship money for high school students in Pleasanton.
George was a Pleasanton businessman who owned the Cheese Factory, spent time on various civic committees and was always willing to do what was needed to help people.
Upon his passing in 1985, his friends decided to take George's annual golf tournament that was a day of fun for friends and turn it into a fundraiser for scholarships for Pleasanton students.
In the 40 years of GASIT, over $1.1 million was given to graduating seniors from Amador Valley, Foothill and Village high schools.
As the years went by, it got tougher to raise money and seemingly every charity organization was having a golf tournament. The competition for both corporate money and players was huge, and in 2011 the decision was made to end the glorious run of GASIT.
Earlier this year, as all our scholarship commitments were paid off, we had to decide how to disperse the remaining money. Some was used to pay tribute to George, both at the Museum on Main and the old Cheese Factory Building (still in the works), but there was a substantial amount of money left.
Ultimately it was an easy decision as our group decided to present $25,000 to the Matthew Yount Memorial Scholarship.
Yount, a 2011 graduate of Foothill, was attending Cal Poly and was an excellent golfer at both schools. He went to Spain on a study abroad program and while there in 2013 he died in a drowning accident.
His parents, Greg and Sandy Yount, wanted to carry on Matthew's legacy by having a golf tournament, and a 3-stick (only three clubs) event at the Pleasanton Golf Center was the end result. Greg is involved with the Lions Club in Pleasanton, an organization that would help out during the GASIT dinner each year, and after Matthew's passing, they jumped at the chance to help Greg.
"When Matthew passed, he had a lot of friends that were good golfers so that's where we wanted to go," Greg said. "The Lions really wanted to do it."
The tournament raises scholarship money for students from Amador, Foothill and Village, as well as Cal Poly, which is where Spiliotopoulos went to school, so it was a natural fit for GASIT to gift the money.
It was this year at the fifth annual tournament on Aug. 9, where the $25,000 check was presented. The first year of the event they had 50 golfers, and maybe another 30 attendees for the post-tournament festivities. This year there was 90 golfers and 70 more for the dinner.
The scholarship runs through the Amador Valley Scholarships, Inc., an organization that collects all the applications and works as a clearing house for groups such as the Younts.
From there, Greg looks at the applications, then conducts interviews with the students. There are certain things he is looking for in addition to need-based applicants.
"I want someone that wants to give back to the community," Greg explained. "Someone that wants to be a teacher, policeman or fireman generally jumps to the top of the list for me."
As far as Cal Poly students are concerned, the money goes to students in the study abroad program that need financial assistance.
The yearly awards are based on the money raised the previous year in the golf tournament. Back in May, Greg presented $17,000 total in scholarships.
Spend an hour with Greg and you feel the passion he carries to honor Matthew, leaving it as the type of organization that is easy to get behind. Also, by being a 9-hole tournament, it doesn't wipe out an entire day, rather starting at 3 p.m.
"It's really just a couple hours of fun," Greg said.
The tournament is set for late July next year (I will have information on the event some time in June of next year in this space), and there are several options in which you can participate.
Golf and dinner, as well as dinner-only tickets, are sold. There are also sponsorship options available, such as a major sponsor or a tee sponsor. There is an auction at the dinner and the organization is always looking for auction items.
Contributions may be made to the Matthew Yount Memorial Foundation. Contact Greg at [email protected] or 200-9579.
Football season starts
Local football teams get started this week, with Amador Valley traveling to Antioch and Foothill playing host to San Leandro at Amador. Both games are set for 7 p.m. starts on Friday.
Look back here in the next couple of weeks to get insight to the Dons and Falcons programs this season.