Ben Sater was 10 when he realized that Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children never charged his family for the orthopedic treatment he'd been getting for several years.
He decided to give something back to the hospital, and he's succeeded beyond his or anyone else's dreams.
The annual golf tournaments for kids the 17-year-old has hosted since then have raised about $660,000 for the Dallas hospital, and he's aiming for a full million by the time he goes to college.
"I was very taken aback that he'd thought to do something," said his mother, Kim Sater.
About 375 kids are expected to turn out at a Dallas country club Monday for the seventh KidSwing tournament. That's the capacity for that course, so for the second year they'll hold another tournament in July, expected to draw about 120 young players to a course in McKinney, about 30 miles north of Dallas.
'It just was very special'
Sater, a soon-to-be high school senior from the Dallas suburb of Plano, remembers the excitement of the first KidSwing tournament with 78 participants. They'd hoped to raise $10,000, but ended up with about $20,000.
"We had no idea what we could do. It just was very special," Kim Sater said.
"When we first started, I would've never thought we could raise $1 million," said Ben Sater.
He started thinking of ways to do something for the hospital after he noticed that his mother didn't stop to pay after one of his visits to Texas Scottish Rite for treatment of a condition called trigger finger, in which fingers lock or catch in a bent position. He had his first operation at age 3.
He had played golf since he was 4, so his parents settled on holding a golf tournament for kids ages 7 to 18.
The young players are asked to raise $100 by getting family and friends to sponsor them, but many raise much more, Sater said. His mother said that so far they've gotten enough corporate sponsorship so that all the money the kids raise goes to the hospital.
Last year, 8-year-old Charlsie Doan raised almost $14,000. A week before this year's tournament she'd already raised almost $10,000.
"I write a letter and mommy copies it," said Charlsie, who has been a patient at Scottish Rite since she was a newborn. She was born without a right hand, and the hospital has helped her achieve such goals as playing a violin by designing a prosthetic hand with a bow attached.
Involved from the start
Charlsie's family has been involved with the tournament from the start, when her father learned about it from Ben Sater's father.
"When he told me about it, I said, 'We're in,'" said her father, Cameron Doan, a golf pro at a club.
Stephanie Brigger, vice president of development at Scottish Rite, said other patients have raised money with book drives and lemonade stands, but none have done anything so big at such a young age as Ben Sater.
The tournament has a kids committee and an adult committee. The kids' duties include choosing the T-shirt design and fundraising prizes and helping set the day's program — Monday's tournament ends with a pool party.
"Each year, it's very much run by the kids," said Brigger.
"This is our next generation of philanthropists," Brigger said. "They're learning about what it is to give back and give to others. It's a beautiful thing that they've done."
Fourteen-year-old Stephen Hoefer, who has been participating in the KidSwing tournament since he was 7, will start volunteering at the hospital this summer by helping introduce Scottish Rite patients to golf.
‘I like the cause’
Over the years Hoefer has gotten his friends involved in the tournament and has made friends there. "I like the cause and I thought it was fun playing golf," he said.
Ten-year-old kids committee member Blake Margolis enjoys seeing what happens behind the scenes.
"You get to get involved and you get to help," Margolis said.
Kim Sater said that when the young players befriend other kids who have been patients at Scottish Rite, it brings home exactly who is being helped.
"They understand then why they're doing what they're doing," she said.