Local and regional golfers prepare for the 22nd Annual Gainesville Regional Utilities GRU Golf Tournament to benefit Williams Elementary School.

The tournament, which begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at Ironwood Golf Course with a shotgun start, will feature approximately 27 teams playing in a scramble format with four players on each team. The tournament is sold out this year.

On average, the annual tournament brings in about $20,000 for the school.

Casey Smith, community relations coordinator for the GRU, said the annual tournament has been held every year since its inception, except in 2020 when it was canceled due to COVID-19.

The Williams and GRU partnership began over 25 years ago with the Adopt-A-School program to provide year-round support for things like fundraising, mentoring and tutoring, back-to-school gifts and other supports.

Anyana Stokes, Williams’ principal, said the golf tournament provides funds to support a variety of initiatives and projects such as the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Support Program, which rewards students for following school-wide expectations. Funds are also used to purchase items for the school store where students can use Wildcat Cash to purchase items, reward activities, trips, parties, and items for teachers’ class projects and field trips.

“We used the funds to purchase much-needed cafeteria seating,” Stokes said. “We use funds to support students attending Williams living at St. Francis House. We’ve bought shoes, coats, backpacks, socks, and even things like deodorant and laundry detergent. We help with field travel expenses, purchase items needed for Camp Crystal and Security Patrol travel, and use the funds to provide meals on teachers’ work nights and refreshments for special events.

Stokes appreciates those who, year after year, support Williams throughout the tournament.

“Thank you,” Stokes said. “Because the funds are discretionary and can be used in a variety of ways, it gives us the ability to really wrap families up when they need us and really support them. Their continued support allows us to appreciate the teachers and to reward students. We are extremely grateful.

“GRU vendors and other members of the community come together each year for the benefit of the school and have done so year after year for 22 years,” said Smith, adding that this year approximately 108 golfers and 15 volunteers will participate in the event, which will include breakfast and lunch and a meeting the day before at the VPIZZA & Sidecar restaurant in Gainesville.

“It’s about friendship and coming together,” Smith said.

Smith said WW Gay Mechanical Contractor Inc. will be the presenting sponsor of the tournament this year. Chris Stalnaker, Vice President of Gainesville Operations for WW Gay, said the tournament is “a very well-organized event that gives us local businesses the opportunity to help support local students while building personal relationships for improve our community as a whole”.

Stalnaker said what keeps people coming year after year is supporting kids. He said the importance of community support is in WW Gay’s DNA.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” Smith said.