The 2023 Bell Center Tailgate Challenge, which was held on Saturday, Aug. 26, benefits The Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs. The 2023 tailgate raised more than $80,000, making it the largest, most successful fundraiser since this event’s inception in 2008. Here, The Bell Center’s Marketing and Development Director, Stacey Morales, thanks tailgaters and attendees for their continued support.
Tell our readers about the Bell Center Tailgate Challenge this year. How many came out to support the cause?
Even with temperatures reaching 100 degrees, more than 40 teams came out to tailgate and provide food and drinks for nearly 1,200 attendees. Tailgaters served everything from hotdogs, hamburgers, chili and gumbo, as well as cocktails, too. The tailgate was juried by a panel of judges including Elaine Prince, Encompass; Talia Lin and Ryan Jefferson, It’s a Southern Thing; Will Lochamy, BHM Mountain Radio; Mayor Patrick McClusky, Homewood Mayor; Nicole McLaughlin, All Recipes; Foster Ware, Alabama Power Company; Russ Bodner, Back 40 Beer Company; Noah Galloway, “Dancing with The Stars” alumni and author; and Nick Halfacre, Pihakis Restaurant Group.
Which teams won in each category?
Kathryn and Bruce Burdette on team “Oklahoma” won Best Overall. Team “GMC” won the People’s Choice Award. Dr. Rachel Kassel on team “Georgia” won Best Team Spirit. Johnson Healthcare Real Estate won Best Food. Mike Kendrach and Bob Thomas on team “Kentucky” won Best Drink.
What was your favorite aspect of this year’s event?
People attend this event year after year. It’s super family friendly. We have a fun kids’ zone with a bounce house and activities. The Service Guild of Birmingham always puts on a fabulous children’s tent each year. It’s an event for everybody. As a director here at The Bell Center, that’s what I love most–it’s very inclusive.
How is this fundraiser crucial to supporting the advancement of The Bell Center’s programs?
We have seen a huge surge in pediatric referrals for the services we provide. Within the last two years, our enrollment for infants and toddlers has increased substantially. Last program year, our enrollment increased more than 40-percent. We just started our fall therapy program with 105 infants and toddlers, which is 54-percent higher than we did last year. We are constantly having to raise money to help provide the therapies and programs we offer, so the community’s support in our events, like The Bell Center Tailgate Challenge, really do make a difference in a child’s life. It’s because of our generous supporters that we can continue serving children and their families.
How important is early diagnosis and intervention in a child’s physical and intellectual progression?
The connections in a baby’s brain are most adaptable in the first three years of life. These connections are the foundation for learning, behavior and health. Since 1984, The Bell Center has provided quality early intervention services for infants and toddlers with special needs from birth through three years of age. Programs at The Bell Center are designed to promote growth in gross and fine motor skills, as well as language, cognition, self-help and social skills, which all are specifically tailored to each individual child’s needs. Early intervention can change a child’s developmental path and improve outcomes for children, families and communities.
The Bell Center’s 2024 Tailgate Challenge will be held on Saturday, Aug. 24. To learn how to get involved or for general information about The Bell Center, visit thebellcenter.org.