Camp Esperanza- It’s For Kids!

Bondsmen Giving Back

To coincide with The Professional Bondsmen of Texas’ 49th annual convention, the Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament (“SGW Memorial”) is being held in San Antonio for the first time, after 29 years of taking place in Dallas. The annual event that benefits children battling cancer will tee off at 1:00 PM on Wednesday, October 9 at The Quarry Golf Course. 

The charity golf tournament was founded by Mike Whitlock, twin brother to Steven who, in 1989 at the age of 26, lost his life to brain cancer.  Struggling to deal with the death of a young man who lived life with passion and was friends with seemingly everyone he ever met, Mike and his family came up with the perfect way to honor his memory.  Through this fun event, the SGW Memorial has raised more than a half million dollars over the years — with all the money going to send kids to Camp Esperanza outside Dallas.  The summer camp offers boys and girls battling cancer a week of fun and friendship while building confidence and inspiring hope.

Every year, a large number of Texas bail agents with big hearts get together to participate in the golf tournament, led by Mike, the Executive Vice President for American Surety Company.  When Steven fell ill years ago, Mike found countless bail agents and others in the bail industry throughout the nation rallying together in support.  After Steven passed away, it became clear their dedication to the cause of helping just one person had become a full-on commitment to aiding as many cancer patients as possible.  Although people from all walks of life have participated in and generously supported the SGW Memorial Golf Tournament over the years, many earn their living in the bail bond industry.  According to Mike, “the support of those working in the bail industry has been nothing short of amazing.”

One such supporter is Ken W. Good, an attorney who serves on the board of The Professional Bondsmen of Texas.  He knows first-hand the urgent need to support the cause of children fighting cancer and cancer-related illnesses. His own daughter, Laurel, underwent a life-saving bone marrow transplant at the age of five after her blood platelet levels plummeted to dangerously low levels due to her being born with TAR Syndrome.  The months following surgery were difficult when her doctors suggested that she go to Camp Esperanza which would take place a few months later.  Laurel’s visit to Camp Esperanza proved to be instrumental to her recovery. 

Ken had actually known Mike Whitlock for years through their shared connection in the bail industry, seeing each other from time-to-time at various bail events.  On one particular occasion, both were attending this very golf tournament when a remarkable “ah-ha” moment took place when Ken realized the event was benefiting the very camp his own daughter was attending at that moment!  Knowing they both shared a common cause, it didn’t take much for Ken to throw his support behind Mike and the SGW Memorial Golf Tournament.

Despite being in existence for 30 years, SGW Memorial and its annual charity golf tournament have “flown under the radar” all this time, having never solicited any media attention, while supported purely at a grassroots level.  Other high-profile charities may have raised more money in comparable time frames, but none have worked more on a personal, one-on-one level with their donors and volunteers than SGW Memorial.  The results are a consistent commitment from the men and women familiar to one another from their work serving their communities in the bail industry, eager to step away from their jobs to serve a higher cause.

Many children are helped through SGW Memorial’s fundraising efforts.  The cost to attend the camp is $500 per child and there is a long waiting list.  Sadly, some boys and girls won’t make it before enough money is raised for them to attend.

That first year when Ken was contemplating sending Laurel to Camp Esperanza, he was hesitant. He said to his wife, “Isn’t her immune system compromised? She still has a port and still takes anti-rejection drugs.  Should she be out and about at all at any camp?”  His worries were alleviated when his wife reminded him that there would be doctors and nurses on-site and that the facility even gives chemo during camp. Eventually, Ken saw how important it was in Laurel’s battle to take a break and spend time in a fun-filled environment with other kids facing similar challenges. There’s an instant understanding amongst the children who attend the camp. Nobody has to explain, for example, why they’ve lost their hair or why they might tire easily. Everyone just knows and accepts the circumstances with consideration and kindness.

Today, Ken’s daughter is a happy 14-year-old who plays the trumpet in her high school band. Since the camp’s age limit for the kids is 15, next year will be Laurel’s last year in attendance. Laurel has attended the camp since she was 6.  The lessons Laurel learned and the love she received each year during that week is something that she so looked forward to, will stay with her forever.

To donate to the Steven G Whitlock Memorial Corporation, send a check to SGW Memorial c/o PBT, 3616 Far W. Blvd, Suite 366, Austin, TX 78731 or visit www.sgwmemorial.com.

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