By LARRY VAUGHT
When the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rutherford County (Tenn.) were trying to decide who would be the right speaker for the 30th annual Stake & Burger fundraiser, one name stuck out — Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari.
“Our saying for this year is, ‘Imagine The Dream.’ We feel coach Calipari is good at helping people achieve their dreams and was the perfect fit for what we are doing with what he does,” said Michelle Clifford, director of marketing and special events for the clubs. “We are really happy to have him coming for what is the largest fundraiser we do each year.”
The event is April 27 at 6 p.m. CST at the World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro. Dress is business casual and tickets are $200 per person and can be purchased online at www.bgcrc.net.
“We have a committee that meets to discuss who is a good fit for the event each year and how that person portrays himself or herself in terms of what we do,” Clifford said. “We had a lady reach out to coach Calipari and it was not difficult at all to get him here. He seemed so excited to be part of this.
“Ticket sales are going great. We are expecting a sold-out event to hear him. It has been a lot of fun to see and watch the excitement.”
Murfreesboro is about 30 miles south of Nashville. However, that would not seem like a hotbed for Kentucky basketball.
“First, this is a great cause and becomes about the kids we are helping and finding good people to help inspire them and make a difference in their lives,” Clifford said. “Second, Kentucky fans are everywhere. Just from what I have heard and seen, Kentucky fans are coming out of the woodwork for this.
“It has been fun to talk with people because everyone has a story with the history of Kentucky basketball. The program has been good for such a long time, that fans just love the Wildcats.”
So does Clifford. Both of her parents are from Kentucky and life-long Kentucky fans. She says, like many UK fans, she was “born into” the Big Blue Nation.
“I grew up watching Kentucky games with my dad,” she said. “I will still call him to talk during games because it is near and dear to our hearts. So having coach Calipari here is a little bit of a personal thing for me, too.
“Most people know I am a Kentucky basketball fan even though I live in Nashville. I am excited for folks to see and meet him. He is such a great guy and changes so many lives.
“People are dying to hear him. It’s not every day in Tennessee that you see someone like John Calipari and people are very excited for this event.”
The event’s name was changed five years ago to show how the event lets others “make a stake in a child’s future” with their donations.
“Thirty years ago the club went out back and grilled hamburgers for hours for this event,” Clifford said. “Now every year we have a generous restaurant here in town that provides all the food. Every club across the country does the event a little different, but we like what we have and we are really thrilled this year to have John Calipari coming.”
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