The Jay Bruce Golf Benefit, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 16, and in its fourth year, has raised about $75,000 since its inception and is only getting bigger and better with two-time MLB All-Star, outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds, and West Brook High School alumnus Jay Bruce adding a concert at Winnie venue Nutty Jerry’s in an effort to raise even more funds for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I’ve been wanting to have a concert as part of the benefit, and Nutty Jerry’s offered their venue,” Bruce said. “The golf tournament has been great … but adding the concert is just going to be another step to that growth. The better product you put out, the more people will be willing to donate, to sponsor and to underwrite. With the addition of the concert, I really hope to raise a lot more.”
Proceeds from both the golf benefit and the concert go to The Arc of Greater Beaumont, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that helps enrich the lives of both children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and West Brook High School’s Life Skills program, which provides a wide range of knowledge and skill interactions essential for special education students to prepare for adult independent living.
Although registration for the golf benefit is full, according to John Allen of Bayou Din Golf Club, 8537 Labelle Road in Beaumont, where the tournament is taking place, sponsorships are still available and can be purchased by calling (409) 796-1327, with Hole Sponsors at $150, Beverage Cart Sponsors at $300, Clubhouse Banner Sponsor at $500, and Title Sponsor (Banner & Beverage Cart) at $700. Event registration starts at 9 a.m., and tee off is scheduled for 10.
The benefit concert following the fourth annual Jay Bruce Golf Tournament will be at Nutty Jerry’s, 18291 Englin Road in Winnie, with VIP tickets priced at $100 and general admission seating at $25. Doors open at 7 p.m. with performances by Blue Broussard scheduled for 7:30, Tracy Byrd for 8:15, and the Josh Abbott Band for 9:30. Jerry Nelson is providing the venue at no cost for the benefit, Bruce said.
“This is fantastic for the community,” said Dan Baus, marketing director for Nutty Jerry’s and long-time business associate of Nelson, “and I hope we can do it more.”
Bruce said he became acquainted with The Arc of Greater Beaumont through the nonprofit’s involvement with his sister, Kellan, who sustained complications during her birth that left her mentally disabled. Kellan, 31, has been actively involved with the Arc of Greater Beaumont for almost a decade now. She also takes part in the non-profit’s annual Stars of the Arc Celebrity Style Show, where participants get a chance to model popular spring fashions and hog the spotlight for a night, said Gary Hidalgo, executive director of the Arc of Greater Beaumont. The show is one of the many events that funds from the Jay Bruce benefit make possible.
“It’s made them feel really confident and a chance to be the center of attention for a change,” Hidalgo said. “Being more out and open and coming out of their shells … that’s been the biggest success, especially for most of the adults that we serve.”
Hidalgo said The Arc serves around 300 children and adults like Kellan who are allowed social opportunities through the organization’s various events and programs, which include style shows, talents shows, and trips to Bauer Ranch, a homestead in Winnie owned by Vickie and Tim Bauer where Arc members and their families get an opportunity to unwind, fish, feast on barbeque and participate in karaoke and other fun activities.
“It just hits a soft spot in (Jay’s) heart,” Hidalgo said. “Jay feels strongly about what we do. He knows … we’re making a lot of great strides. We’ve made a lot of progress, and I think he wanted to be a part of that.”
“They have so many outlets for the kids there and grown men and women too,” Bruce added. “They have equestrian leagues, basketball leagues, fashion shows. They really do a great job of giving these men and women something to look forward to. I think that is something that is very, very special to their lives and to their families’ lives, as well. It gives them a sense of accomplishment, which is important for every person, whether you’re physically or mentally disabled or not.”
Cindy Bloodsworth, former board president, vice president, legislative advocacy chair and current advisory board member for The Arc of Greater Beaumont and one of the parents responsible for bringing the non-profit to Southeast Texas, said her 31-year-old son, Matthew, who has Down syndrome, has benefited greatly from the BISD Life Skills program, another benefactor of Bruce’s fundraiser.
“The Life Skills courses are really important,” Bloodsworth said.
While writing, reading and arithmetic were necessary skills for her son to learn, Bloodsworth said the social and societal skills Matt acquired while enrolled in the program were equally important.
“Learning how to get along with people, how to ride the bus safely, knowing personal safety skills, being able to practice what it means to be able to buy your own groceries, to know what your budget is supposed to be like or just learning how to wait in line — those kinds of things help you get along out in society. Those social skills are sometimes even more important than your academic skills.”
“Our main goal is to get these kids as independent as possible,” said Tiffany Woodall, Life Skills teacher at West Brook High School. “It’s stuff that you and I would take for granted, but it’s important for them.”
“If they grow up and they’re able to take care of themselves, that’s an accomplishment that otherwise may not have been possible if it wasn’t for the Life Skills program,” Bruce said. “Really giving these people all the opportunities, the tools and the things that they need to get the most of that program – I think that’s important and that’s the reason that I do it.”
Woodall said Life Skills students learn how to cook, do laundry and perform other tasks vital to independent living, but also acquire social skills through interaction with general education students, citing the program’s Cookie Crew as an example.
“We sell cookies every Thursday,” Woodall said. “General Ed peers will go out with one or two of our kids and go to different classrooms and sell cookies.”
The money raised from cookie sales goes toward purchasing T-shirts and items for community-based instruction and holiday activities for the Life Skills students, Woodall said.
The thousands of dollars the Jay Bruce Golf Benefit has raised for West Brook’s Life Skills program has allowed the district to purchase iPads, touch screen monitors, and appliances to practice cooking and doing laundry, skills that Bloodsworth said have truly helped her son gain independence.
“The seeds that were planted while (Matt) was in Life Skills class have come to reap great rewards for him, and today he’s very proud and capable of the things he’s able to do without his mom and dad taking care of him all the time,” Bloodsworth said.
After Matt graduated in 2001, he was equipped with Life Skills for independence but no longer was able to interact with his peers on a daily basis and was faced with another problem — loneliness.
“That’s when we decided to start The Arc,” Bloodsworth said. “We were a group of parents who were frustrated and hurt by the difficulties our kids were having to experience once they were out of the public school system. The Arc has really grown to be an important element of Matthew’s life.”
Matt, who since he was a young boy has watched Bruce play baseball, from Little League in Beaumont to All-Star MLB ball in Cincinnati, now has gainful employment as a lawn worker at the Ben Rogers Employment Training Facility, lives in a group home and even has a steady girlfriend, his mother said.
“It really means a lot to Matthew, particularly, and me, from my perspective as a parent, that Jay, someone who has done well for himself and gone out into the much bigger world, hasn’t forgotten about people like Matthew,” Bloodsworth said. “We’re so pleased that Jay is still doing something to contribute to our community. Whether our children who have disabilities are in high school or whether they are like Matt, who no longer is able to take advantage of the public school system, it takes a village, and we’re glad to have Jay be a member of our village.”
Country for a cause
Jay Bruce benefit concert offers great music for an even greater cause
Jay Bruce is not the only Beaumont boy who has risen to stardom and is a familiar face at fundraisers across Southeast Texas. Tracy Byrd’s annual Big Bass Tournament has raised funds for The Children’s Miracle Network, among other organizations, and has been a staple in the community for more than a decade. Byrd will be performing at Bruce’s benefit for The Arc of Greater Beaumont and West Brook High School’s Life Skills program Nov. 16 at Nutty Jerry’s in Winnie. Byrd is well known to legions of country music fans, serving up playful hits like “Watermelon Crawl” and “The Truth About Men” as well as poignant ballads such as his signature song “Keeper of the Stars,” which netted the Academy of Country Music’s Song of the Year accolade in 1996. Byrd approaches everything in life with a fiery intensity and commitment to excellence. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than on stage.
“The pay off always was and always will be that couple hours on stage every night,” said Byrd, who has been in the country music business for more than 20 years. “I still love making live music and working with my band. I still love working up a show and rehearsing. I enjoy that whole aspect of life because that’s where I came from. Some acts that are hit acts today lived in Nashville and were demo singers. I’d never been in a studio until I cut a record and got a record deal. I was a live performer. That’s what I am and where I came from and what I still love to do.”
Following Byrd is a performance by the Josh Abbott Band, who’s 2011 breakout success of “Oh, Tonight,” which climbed to No. 44 on Billboard’s country chart, and the title track from 2010’s regional smash “She’s Like Texas” created a stir that reached all the way to music executives in Nashville and New York City.
While gaining a substantial local following and national recognition, Abbot knew he had a big act to follow with the second record – he did just that and more. Released in 2012, Small Town Family Dream is also an ode to the music of Texas with Abbot’s hero Pat Green sitting in on the track “My Texas.”
The results speak for themselves. “Josh Abbott has ascended to that A-list level of the Texas country scene faster than anyone I’ve ever seen coming from an upstart position,” said Chris Mosser, the morning host of Austin’s 98.1 KVET-FM who also programs the station’s popular Texas country “Roadhouse” program. “And it seems to me that for a lot of the younger Texas country fans, he’s definitely the gravitational center of the current scene. His impact with the kids is remarkable.”
Opening for the Jay Bruce benefit will be Blue Brossard, one of the most talented singer-songwriters on the thriving Beaumont music scene. Brossard combines all his influences in his sound — “southern rock, country, Americana or whatever you want to label us, we’re OK with any of those,” he says. Brossard’s latest Nashville recorded single “Chevy, Dodge and Ford” was just released and is available on www.bluebrossard.com .