VALDOSTA –– For the 11th year, the Valdosta Wildcats football program hit Valdosta Country Club for its most important fundraiser of the year –– The Valdosta Wildcat Shootout.
The Shootout is the Valdosta Touchdown Club's biggest fundraising event of the year as the proceeds go directly to the 'Cats football program. Funds typically go toward the legendary "Feed The Cats" program as well as travel and other team expenses over the course of the season.
"It goes into the bellies of a lot of our kids," Valdosta head football coach Alan Rodemaker said of the funds raised. "A lot of this stuff is just for food because we're feeding them twice a day. All of our travel in the summer is the Touchdown Club and we do a lot of that, but also it's feeding our kids twice a day."
With around 30 teams of four competing on Thursday, Rodemaker spoke glowingly of the support the Touchdown Club has received from the various sponsors that help to put on the tournament.
"They don't care when we have it, they're going to be a part of it and there's some true 'Cats here," Rodemaker said of the sponsors. "I just told them earlier I appreciate them continuing to support us and supporting the young people in Valdosta City Schools and Valdosta High School football. It's good to just know when you have a tournament, you're gonna have 30-42 teams –– I think the most we ever had was 42, and we've got 30 this year so I'm jacked up about it.
"Valdosta Country Club, Cary Brown has been a great partner. Cary's going through cancer treatment right now and for him to be out here was big. Just to see all the guys that we always see, the same people that support us, I'm just happy and thankful that we have a community that supports our high school."
After raising in excess of $100,000 with the tournament in each of the past two years, Rodemaker expects Thursday's tournament to pull in at least $40,000. According to Rodemaker, the process used to be done by silent auction but has since been centered around the golf tournament.
With his team wrapping up its spring practice, spring game and its 10th annual Lil 'Cats Camp in recent weeks, Rodemaker was more than glad to spend some time on the green.
"For me, I enjoy it," Rodemaker said. "I came here an hour and a half early and I was hoping to get some more practice swings in and never got any. A lot of times, it's really my fault I guess –– I only see these people once a year. I was able to visit with John Lastinger and Greg Talley and those guys; people that I only see once a year at this event, but they've always been big supporters. It's just fun for me. I wish I could just hang out and talk to them all for about four hours. ... There's a bunch of Wildcats in this town, a lot more than anything else. They've been here the longest.
"We've still got some we haven't reached out to, but there's a bunch that are very loyal to whatever we do fundraiser-wise."
While Rodemaker is most comfortable on the football field, he's enjoying a little break before the team begins its summer 7-on-7 practices in June.
"It's just a different change of pace for us –– these two weeks were pretty good," Rodemaker said. "We had a big coaches outing at my house with crawfish and all that. (Thursday) was the golf tournament. This kind of ends our little two weeks off. Next Monday, we start up at 7 a.m. so this was a good week...a good time."