Long before the 100-yard field coated orange and blue and the roaring swamp packed with thousands of screaming fans, Will Muschamp was playing in a much different ball game.
While he started his run as the second youngest coach in the SEC with 16 years of coaching experience under his belt, his football career actually originated on a much smaller, humbler field. “Playing football at the Boys and Girls Club was always one of my favorite memories,” he recalled.
Like so many young boys and girls, Muschamp grew up at the Club, taking with him lifelong lessons he integrates into his life, his children’s lives and his coaching strategies. Among those, the value of a solid work ethic, cooperative teamwork and healthy competition are ranked ultimate titleholders.
“The values of teamwork and being part of something bigger than yourself are principals I learned at the Club that are very valuable to me today,” he said. “Having grown up and spent a great deal of my childhood there, I can’t think of a better organization to give back to.”
Which is why each year he hosts the annual Muschamp Scramble for Kids, a golf tournament benefitting three organizations devoted to improving the lives of children right here in Gainesville: The Boys and Girls Club, Children’s Home Society and Girls Place, Inc.
The action-packed fundraiser, which spreads across three days, raised more than $72,000 last year. In addition to this year’s banquet with live music and silent and live auctions (presenting items like a private island getaway and a Gator helmet signed by the past four football coaches), the event will feature a professional-amateur competition—something the fundraiser has not included the past few years.
“This is a community event that goes to support the three wonderful charities that help kids by providing critical programs our kids need in the area,” said Event Chair Jessica Pastore McKinney, who helped set a goal this year to raise $100,000. “The event has a lot to offer everyone; anyone who attends will have a great time.”
“The Muschamp Scramble for kids is a win/win for everyone involved,” said Taryn Buckley, Athletic Director of Girls Place. “Friends and organizations in Gainesville get together for a couple days of camaraderie, all the while raising money to support our programs.”
For the past 20 years, the event has been hosted by the head coach of the Gator football team. Having been held by Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Urban Meyer, the children’s fundraiser has long carried meaningful ties for these men. Similar to its previous hosts, Muschamp is a father, coach and mentor. This particular cause, however, holds significance much closer to home for this Boys and Girls Club alumnus. A portion of the children directly benefitting from the $1.5 million donated to the event since its inception are playing and learning on the exact field Muschamp himself stood as a youth.
“This is my 11th tournament, and I think the unique thing about working with coach Muschamp is that he actually grew up at the club. He really understands down deep what it is we do and the role we play,” said Keith Blanchard, President and Chief Professional Officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County.
The proceeds from the event, which is one of the three major fundraisers for the club, have become critical to sustain the programs and services the Club offers to the 3,000 children who walk through its doors each year. With a leading focus on academics, the organization centers its programs on health, athletics, art, leadership and character development, career preparation, technology and positive life skills.
“The funds that are generated from the tournament are used to support a broad range of programs, including academic, healthy lifestyles and character development and the multiple programs under those core three,” Blanchard said. “Every penny we’re able to generate through these special events becomes more critical each year for our success as an organization.”
“The Scramble for Kids has become a fantastic fundraising tradition for three great organizations that impact daily lives of Alachua county youth,” Buckley added. “Girls Place feels so fortunate to be recognized by coach Muschamp as one of those organizations.”
“There is a uniqueness with the Scramble for Kids that you do not see often,” said Renae Clements, Executive Director of Girls Place. “Most all non-profit agencies hold fundraising events, but not often do you have three local charities working together for a common and important cause—making it possible to serve children who deserve nothing short of the best that life has to offer.”
The Scramble, which Blanchard said is one of the most successful tournaments in the country led by a head football coach, makes all of this support possible. And the fact that the local children look up to Muschamp is an added bonus.
The Boys and Girls Club youth can see firsthand the photograph of a school-aged Muschamp and his youth team at the Club. Athletic coaches and professional athletes, many of whom are club alumni, come back to visit the Gainesville locations to play with the children through one of the organization’s largest-running football programs in the country.
“It’s special when they know the head coach grew up here,” Blanchard said. “He talked to them at the stadium and pointed up to the sign and said, ‘Someday I want to see you guys run through that tunnel, too.’ And he talked about how it’s possible and it takes hard work and dedication and work ethic, and that school has to come first. You could’ve heard a pin drop; those kids were eating up every word. Seeing that direct tie of where he was and where he is now makes it seem more achievable. He has a special impact as a result of that tie.”
That impact goes far beyond the mere idea of success and achievement. The three organizations hold a foremost mission to keep children on the right track, through a solid foundation in academics and athletics in a healthy, safe environment.
“We are so fortunate to have such community support for children’s programs in our community,” said Jennifer Anchors, executive director of Children’s Home Society Mid-Florida Division. “It is so wonderful to see coach Muschamp and his organization supporting this event, so that children can benefit and have more opportunities in their lives.”
“The Boys and Girls Club is a tremendous opportunity for parents to give their children some lifelong lessons through sports and academics,” Muschamp said. “Children will learn the values of teamwork and commitment and have the opportunity to develop a work ethic through teaching and coaching that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.”
For more information on the Will Muschamp Scramble for Kids and to register for the event, please visit www.ScrambleForKids.org.