BRISTOL, Va. -- Celebrities and supporters came together on Monday to raise money for a worthy cause -- and thanks to their generosity, the 2014 Niswonger Children's Hospital Golf Classic raised about $700,000.
The tournament, played at The Virginian Golf Club and organized by Mountain States Foundation, brought in a host of celebrities, among them NFL greats Peyton Manning, Jason Witten and Dan Marino, NFL head coach Ken Whisenhunt of the Tennessee Titans, pro golfers Corey Pavin and Larry Mize, and college coaching legends Frank Beamer from Virginia Tech, Phil Fulmer from the University of Tennessee and Bruce Pearl, former UT basketball coach who's the new Auburn head coach.
They gathered to support the children of the region who need specialized medical care. Niswonger Children's Hospital, located in nearby Johnson City, Tenn., and part of Mountain States Health Alliance, serves more than 200,000 children from a 29-county region covering Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and reaching into Kentucky and North Carolina.
It offers treatment for specialized diseases and health problems that children might otherwise have to travel hundreds of miles to receive.
Businessman and philanthropist Scott Niswonger, founder of LandAir Transport Corp. in Greeneville, Tenn., is the hospital's chief benefactor and one of the tournament's organizers.
"I'm certain the children's hospital was the best investment I ever made," Niswonger told a pre-tournament crowd. "Our motto is 'Learn, earn and return,' and to support a cause like this is a great way to return something back to the community. I want to particularly thank my co-host Steve Johnson who was instrumental in putting this event on and making it a true success; many of the celebrities were friends of Steve from his professional football days. I would also like to thank the many volunteers and staff with Mountain States Foundation who put countless hours each year into this great fundraising event.”
The golf tournament was part of a two-day fundraising celebration that included a benefit concert the night before the tournament featuring country sensations The Band Perry, who hail from Greeneville. Participants in the golf tournament got to attend a VIP Par-Tee, presented by CrestPoint Health, to meet the sports celebrities, and they were also treated to tickets for the benefit concert.
In addition to Pavin and Mize, fellow pro golfers Joe Durant, Loren Roberts and Gene Sauers participated in this year's tournament, as did former NFL standouts Wesley Walls, Carroll Dale, Jim Stuckey and Steve Johnson, the former New England Patriots tight end who is a commercial developer in Bristol and one of the driving forces behind the tournament.
The tournament has drawn many repeat celebrities, including Marino and Manning.
"It's an honor for me to be a part of this," Manning said. "It's great fellowship, great fun and also a great cause."
Alan Levine, President and CEO of Mountain States Health Alliance, the parent company of Niswonger Children's Hospital, expressed his gratitude to the many sponsors and celebrities who gathered to support the children of Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Northwest North Carolina and Southeast Kentucky.
"The investment made in Niswonger Children's Hospital by so many people will yield incredible returns for the families in our region," Levine said. "Providing these services locally means families don't have to travel hundreds of miles from home to get the life-saving services they need. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to everyone who supported this great event."
| Steve Johnson
| Scott Niswonger