For the past three years, Volunteer’s athletic director has been one of the best local fundraisers for the Ronald McDonald House. This year, he met his goal of $1,500 dollars — and his reward was shaving his legs.
And then the Ronald McDonald House banquet got called off.
“I had shaved my legs the night before and I usually have my girls or someone in the family help me, but for some reason they were out that night and I had to do it myself. That was a chore,” Whalen said. “The banquet was all set up at the MeadowView Center in Kingsport and they were expecting about 200 people and we got an email around noon the day of saying that it had been called off. I went up there and helped them take it down and it definitely was disappointing.
“I felt like a line in Deana Carter’s country song ‘Did I Shave My Legs For This?’ However, the online auction was still able to go on and those items were still able to be sold.”
One of Whalen’s biggest fundraising promos is for the “Sponsor a Kilt Man Contest,” held annually in conjunction with the St. Patrick’s Day Bash. He and others wear a kilt around to see who can raise the most money.
“I’m lucky enough to have a lot of friends in different places around the country giving money,” Whalen said. “One of the biggest helps is the Key Club at Volunteer. They do a lot and help me out. It’s also great to see kids learning how to do civic work at a very early age and seeing how good it is to give back to the community.”
The people Whalen goes up against in his annual fundraising competition include bank presidents and others high up in the business world.
“I always tell people that I’m just your average, run-of-the-mill teacher going up against the big bank presidents and people like that and I tend to raise a lot of money,” he said. “My first year, I raised like $1,600 and last year I raised over $3,800. I probably have more individual donors than anybody else, honestly. I’ll probably have like 50 or 60 individual donors where some others may have less than 10 very large donations.”
But the best thing is that all the money goes to a good cause.
“It’s always awesome to hear and see the stories of young people that use the Ronald McDonald House and live paycheck to paycheck and knowing that you’re helping them out,” he said.
“What’s even cooler is seeing people that may have used the house 12 or 15 years ago giving back after the fact because they know what it can do. Every story is great, but those are the ones I like to see.”
And it’s still not too late to give. Because it is for a good cause, donors can still give online at the Ronald McDonald House Southern Appalachian website.
Spring is normally one of the busiest times in high school athletics, but schools in Hawkins County are closed through at least April 24 because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“I do miss going to all the games right now and I miss the kids,” Whalen said. “The spring goes by so fast because you’ve got something going on just about every day.”
Whalen has improved his golf game over the past few weeks, though.
“It’s been, what, two weeks since everything got shut down and I’m doing one of the only things that you can do,” he said. “I’ve probably played eight times in the last two weeks and the weather has been terrific for it.”