KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — University of Tennessee baseball coach Tony Vitello was on a different kind of field Tuesday morning, helping raise money to give children throughout East Tennessee the chance to be on the go.

Vitello was the special guest at Variety of Eastern Tennessee’s annual golf tournament at Willow Creek Golf Club on Tuesday, Sept. 19. The event helps the charity to assist at-risk, physically challenged and neglected children throughout East Tennessee. This tournament is Variety’s main fundraiser for the year.

“TennCare and other insurance companies, they provide the minimum and so we look at what a child needs to have a great life, not at the minimum. We want them to experience all the joys of being a kid and not just the basic needs,” said Patty Thewes, Executive Director of Variety of Eastern Tennessee.

At the event were Robert and Scarlet, two children who received equipment from Variety’s Kids on the Go! program, which provides adaptive equipment for children living with special needs

“Robert actually received an all-terrain wheelchair from us. And what’s cool about that wheelchair is that it’s able to go on trails. And so a regular wheelchair would only be able to go on a solid surface and this chair enables him to enjoy the trails just like all other kids,” said Thewes. “{Scarlett} received an adaptive trike from us as well.”

“It’s always great to see a kid with a smile on their face regardless of how it got there. It’s automatic. There’s going to be one on your face if there’s one on theirs, and if they don’t, then you try and do what you can, even though you might be a stranger, a new person to put one on their face,” said Vitello. He added that he hoped to join the tournament again next year.

“It’s very rewarding because when you’re trying to obtain funds and you’re doing all the administrative stuff behind the scenes when I see them on their bikes and on their wheelchair, it really brings it home that what we do is so important,” said Thewes.

Each participating foursome in the tournament received a commemorative photo with Vitello, breakfast, lunch, and a gift bag.

“Variety’s golf tournament continues to be a successful event for raising awareness of our Kids on the Go! program, which provides adaptive equipment for children living with special needs” said Thewes. “We are always very appreciative of the players, volunteers, sponsors and Coach Vitello for their donations of money, time and effort in support of local children in need.”

Variety was started in 2001 by Mike Campbell and Greg Dunn, who are Regal Executives. The local chapter of Variety was created in 2001 and has since raised over $11 million to aid children in East Tennessee. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide mobility equipment for children who have special needs in order for them to be included in the community and have all the joys and experiences of being a kid.

“A family can apply quarterly to Variety, and if a child is living in eastern Tennessee and they submit an application and if that is approved by our board, then we will assist them in finding or purchasing equipment that they would like for their child,” said Thewes.

To learn more about Variety, click here. Their golf tournament in 2022 raised more than $245,000 and was one of the top fundraising years ever.