Altruism drives couple to host golf meet
Every night, as Chris Wilson helps his young children get ready for bed, he thinks of the orphans he sponsors in Haiti and Uganda. “These orphans don’t have anyone to sit and pray with,” says Wilson, who along with his wife, Kelli, co-founded the non-profit An Orphan’s Prayer in 2010. “They live in the most dire circumstances, and they don’t have anything.”
To help provide critical needs like food, water, health care, education and yes — religion — to the dozens of orphans their charity supports, the Wilsons are hosting the inaugural “Dream Big Celebrity Golf Classic” next week.
The event will pair each team with one of 20 celebrity golfers, such as Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould; defensive end Israel Idonije; legendary greats Jim McMahon, Kevin Butler, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and Otis Wilson, and WTMX-FM (101.9) radio star Eric Ferguson.
It’s an impressive lineup for a first-year event, and Wilson gives credit to the fund-raiser’s celebrity host. “Robbie Gould is a personal friend of ours, and he reached out to people,” says Wilson. Once the players heard about the cause, “They were like, ‘Sign me up,’ ” says Wilson. “Jim McMahon is flying in from Scottsdale, Ariz., just to golf in this event. It shows what kind of guy he is.”
The event is expected to raise at least $50,000 depending on the popularity of auction items, like a golf trip to California’s Monterey Peninsula that includes four of the top courses in the United States.
The Wilsons felt moved to help global orphans after attending a trip to Haiti organized by the Global Orphan Project. After a second trip with the nonprofit, the philanthropic couple was asked to take on their own orphanage in LaHatte, a village about two hours south of Port-au-Prince.
There are 62 children in the orphanage, from infants to teenagers, and the cost of caring for each child is $560 per year. “We signed up for a three-year deal,” says Wilson, “but we’ll take care of this orphanage as long as they need us. They told us we’d have to be willing to accept that it might bump up to 100 kids, and we said, ‘That’s fine.’ ”
The couple also provides support to an orphanage in Uganda, where many children need hernia operations, and they’ve funded facilities like new restrooms and kitchens.
It’s all part of Wilson’s pay-it-forward philosophy; the business he co-founded 16 years ago, Aftermath (which provides clean-up services after a trauma), has mushroomed to 220 employees in 35 cities. “The more I’ve grown in my faith, the more I realize it’s my obligation to give back,” he says.
To that end, in November, the Wilsons will make their first visit to the orphanage they support in LaHatte along with 25 friends and supporters from Fox River Lutheran Church in Norway, Ill.
“All [the orphans] want is for us to spend time with them,” says Wilson. “They have nothing, and they’re happy. They show us they don’t need all these things in life to be happy. Every time I leave there, they’ve taught me something.”
The Chicago Sun-Times is the media sponsor of this event.