“It’s kind of it’s surreal when you come out on Saturday and there’s 35 of 36 golf teams and we raise close to $20,000 hopefully,” says organizer Jason Shelton. “It’s just incredible to see and it’s a lot of fun doing it.”
The charity golf outing is the brainchild of Niles native Jason Shelton, who came up with the idea of giving back…while needing.
In 2013, Shelton was diagnosed with a kidney disease that required a transplant. Without hesitation, his brother Justin made the donation.
“We’ve always been close, but again, without him, there would be no Hacker,” says Shelton. “I probably wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have met my wife. I wouldn’t have my two kids, so I owe everything to him.”
The Sheltons used their time in the hospital to organize the first Hacker, and officially teed off a week before their surgery.
“We were going through a lot and you just wanted something positive to come from it,” says Jason Shelton. “You would see younger kids that were going through similar things and it was hard for me to understand why that happens and things like that. So we just wanted to help kids get through those moments and I think we’ve done a lot of that and we’re super proud of that.”
Over the last 10 years, the Hacker Classic has raised well over $160,000 with every dime donated.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation has received the bulk of that, but over the last few years organizers have helped raise additional funds for local candidates.
“It was huge. I think it changes everything and it just makes people want to do everything they possibly can,” says Shelton. “Make-A-Wish does tremendous things and everybody loves Make-A-Wish, but when it’s a local thing there’s a little bit extra there that you feel like you’re doing something really well, really good.”
The Hacker Classic continues thanks to the support of dozens of volunteers, committed family and friends and more than 50 local companies that donate money, food and prizes to keep the cause moving forward.
“Everyone goes through their adversity and their tough times. Everybody takes their turn is kind of the way I look at it,” says Shelton. “I hope that people take away that there’s always people in your corner, that have your back and will support you. People supported me a heck of a lot, and I just hope to be able to repay that and pay it forward as long as I can.”