By Amy Wenk
Two Westminster students are fulfilling their dream of helping children and families coping with cancer.
For the third year in a row, Sandy Springs residents Max LaVictoire, 16, and Drew Weprinsky, 15, have organized the Big Dreams Junior Charity Golf Tournament, which raises money for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“They are incredible young men,” said Diane Vaughan, senior development director at Children’s. “The support they provide through the Big Dreams golf tournament really enables us to purchase items from our wish list.
“They have funded things like PlayStation 3’s for all of our infusion bays. We have been able to purchase through their funding items for our school room, our school teachers, our child life specialists. Things that make the cancer journey easier on our patients that come through.”
Max started the Big Dreams Foundation eight years ago. At the time, his sister Rachel was diagnosed with leukemia and was receiving chemotherapy at Children’s.
“Especially at the beginning of her treatment, we were in [the hospital] for a few days at a time, sleeping there and back constantly whenever something went wrong,” said Max. “Seeing all the kids there … really gets to you.”
Rachel recovered and has now been off treatment for six years. However, due to this experience, Max made it his personal mission to raise funds to help the children at the Egleston campus of Children’s. He especially wanted to fund the purchase of games and activities for patients and their siblings to enjoy while in the hospital. Since its inception eight years ago, Big Dreams has raised $60,000 in this pursuit.
“Instead of birthday presents, I’d ask for donations to Big Dreams,” said Max.
When he was in fourth grade, Max acquired a $4,000 donation from a program called Impact, where seventh-graders having their Bar Mitzvahs bestow money to organizations.
With the first $10,000 raised, Big Dreams helped to fund a new sibling playroom at Egleston in June 2005. Then three years ago, Drew, who has been friends with Max for six years, decided to get involved with the foundation. So for his Bar Mitzvah service project, Drew organized the 1st Annual Big Dreams Junior Charity Golf Tournament with the support of Max. Both are avid golfers and have been playing for most of their lives.
The past two tournaments have raised more than $50,000. With this money, Big Dreams recently donated over $28,000 to help renovate the infusion room at the Aflac Cancer Center at Egleston. Fifteen thousand more dollars are currently on the way to further the renovation and improve the facilities.
“Visiting Children’s Healthcare is definitely the best part, seeing the things you donated and how you’ve helped out,” said Drew.
Also, with their funding, Big Dreams will help construct a teen room at the Inpatient Unit at Egleston in first quarter 2009, said Vaughan.
“They have really made a difference,” said Vaughan. “It really gives you inspiration for the next generation of philanthropists.”
At this year’s tournament, which is held June 9 at the Horseshoe Bend Country Club in Roswell, Max and Drew hope to raise more than $30,000.
“The tournament will be a great time,” said Drew. “We plan on a shotgun start at 1:00 p.m. with at least 100 players. We also have some great contests such as longest drive, closest to the pin, longest putt, fastest hole played, and others with many wonderful prizes.”
The first place prize is a trip to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Tickets for the event are $60.
For more information, call Drew Weprinsky at (770) 512-0421, Max LaVictoire at (770) 352-9775 or visit www.bigdreamsworld.org.