Golf to help brighten the futures for some school children by competing for almost $2,000 in prize money to be awarded at the fourth annual Bright Futures Neosho Charity Golf Tournament.

Barb Lake, coordinator, Neosho Bright Futures, said the four-man scramble will tee off with a shotgun start at 9 a.m. at the Neosho Municipal Golf Course on Friday, May 9. The entry cost is $300 per team, and Lake said the first place team will be awarded $1,000, second place will earn $600, and the third place prize is $300.

Lake said proceeds help to keep the futures bright for many Neosho school children, including through the Weekend Backpack program, from which over 300 children are sent home with supplemental foods over the weekend when they are away from school.

 “It’s kids that are in food-insecure homes,” said Lake. “And the reason we do that – in one of our schools before we started – we were finding that kids would go through the trash on Monday morning after breakfast because they were so hungry. When a child’s stomach is growling and they’re hungry, they’re not focused on learning, so we wanted to take that worry away so that when they are at school, they can focus on learning and being successful at learning.”

Lake said one-in-five children nationwide are facing hunger.

“And it’s no different in Neosho, so we work with the community to raise funds to support this program,” she said.

Lake said selected children go home each weekend with from 15 to 17 easy or no-preparation food items, including oatmeal, easy-mac, ravioli, pudding, cheese and crackers, applesauce, fruit and the like. Lake said that equates to about 125,000 food items annually, costing $50,000.

She said the 24th Hour program helps to meet any child’s basic needs within 24 hours. Lake said those needs are identified by school counselors, teachers and nurses.

“So if a student has a need — let’s say their sole is coming off their shoe and the family doesn’t have enough to replace their shoes — they’ll call us and we bring shoes for that student, or a coat or clothing needs. We’ve also done something as simple as a student sleeping on the floor, so they’re not getting a good night’s rest for school. We’ve located mattresses or a bed so that they can get well rested for school.”

She said the program has helped bring alarm clocks into homes so students could be awakened to consistently arrive to school on time, and has even helped those who didn’t have any way to wash their clothes for school.

“So everything we do is to help that student succeed so that they can get a good education and ultimately, we want to reduce our dropout rate and help kids succeed with their education,” Lake said.

She said the Bright Futures Lunch Buddy program pairs positive role models and mentors in the community with students “that just need somebody there for them.” Lake said that mentor meets once a week during the lunch period with the child. “We’re always looking for Buddies to meet with students. That mentor will receive more than they give to that student.”

Lake said the Pay It Forward scholarship allows selected Neosho High School juniors and seniors to take duel-credit courses who otherwise could not because of the financial burden. She said successful applicants must demonstrate academic ability, civic service and financial need.

“For some kids, they’re maybe the first to graduate high school in their family, let alone attend college,” she said. “This gives them a taste of college where they can take a duel-credit course and get a head-start on going to college.”

Another Bright Futures program, Cat Pak, is for new students who move into the R-5 district during the school year.

“Studies show that can have a dramatic effect on a student’s education; so we want them to feel welcome to the Neosho School District so we give them a sports bag of Neosho items like a T-shirt, and pencils or a cup that say ‘Neosho Wildcats’ on that so that they can feel connected to their school and have school spirit,” she said.

Originating in the Joplin School District, Lake said this is the third year Bright Futures has operated in the R-5 district and she is excited that “this community has just embraced this program with open arms.” She said that is why it is successful.

“It’s a community program that utilizes our businesses, our faith groups, our individuals in the community to help kids. That’s what it’s all about,” she said.
Before Bright Futures, Lake said teachers would pay out of their own pockets if a kid needed shoes or school supplies and no other resource of help was available.

“Now we’re able to help the teachers more,” she said. “They can focus on teaching and know that their student’s basic needs are going to be met.”

To register for the May 4 Bright Futures Neosho Charity Golf Tourney, call 451-8600 Ext. 1163 or register online at Greens fees, cart rental, a complimentary lunch and beverage cart are included with the entry cost.

Lake said Bright Futures will hold its annual Stuff the Bus school supply drive in July and August, their Fall Food Drive is planned for September, the Shoe & Coat Drive takes place in October and November, their fourth annual Bowling Tourney is in November, and the Gifting of the Tree is a December fundraising event.