When the first Wildcats Legends for Charity event was held in 2009, Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder was moved by the reception for the event.
And when he spoke to the crowd in Kite’s Bar and Grill, packed with nearly two-dozen former K-State football players, he vowed to make it even bigger.
“I want to assure you that we will make this something really, really special over a period of time,” Snyder said. “And we will get everyone back.”
He was right.
Now in its fifth year, the weekend dinner, auction and golf event has gotten bigger, and it has drawn more former Wildcats back to Manhattan. The event drew around 40 people in its first, and has built steadily each year. This year’s event doubled its participants from last year.
The dinner, once held inside Kite’s, is now held inside the Kansas State Alumni Center. And even it’s packed now.
Melinda Wolford, wife of former K-State guard Eric Wolford (1990-93), said the event, which primarily benefits their No Stone Unturned Foundation, plays to the core of what Snyder has taught his players.
“I think the key was people rallied, they started believing in a cause,” Wolford said of the event’s growth. “There’s two things that are happening here. It gives those guys a chance to get together, and they love each other and they’re a special group, and that’s about coach Snyder and what he instilled in the guys.
“He instilled integrity, hard work, ethics, and that’s the key, and then just to get the chance to come back and see each other for something good. It makes you feel good about what you are doing.”
The Wolford’s No Stone Unturned foundation was the platform for the event when it started in 2009, bringing in former players to assist their nonprofit 501 foundation started after learning their son Stone had Cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome.
CFC Syndrome is a rare and serious genetic disorder that effects the heart, lungs, and often carries neurological disorders as well. The disease wasn’t discovered until the 1980s, and the Wolford’s learned their son had it when he was 2.
The proceeds also benefit the Kansas State Golden Cats, Manhattan Boys and Girls Clubs and Elijah Alexander’s Tackle Cancer Foundation.
With the growth of the foundation, Wolford said the group’s committee began exploring ways it could use the proceeds to help children and their families who deal with the challenges associated with various neurological disorders in the Manhattan area.
With the inspiration of their own son, Stone, Will Porter, the son of Manhattan residents Bill and Brandy Porter and Luke, the son of former K-State fullback and No Stone Unturned committee member Rod Schiller (1990-94), the idea for the No Stone Unturned Therapeutic Learning Center was born.
The No Stone Unturned foundation teamed with the Porter’s local nonprofit Autism Meets Optimism, and Mathis Rehab Centers to create the facility, which opened in January. Prior to its opening, Wolford said families had to go to Topeka and Kansas City for the treatment they can get here.
“Wolf and I started No Stone Unturned because of our son and the inspiration he brought us, and in the second or third year of the event we hooked up with Brandy Porter and Will, and she had visions as well,” Wolford said. “She was going all the way to Kansas City for services, so we worked together. Will and Stone were inspirations, and then Rod Schiller from our committee has a son named Luke who has smooth brain syndrome.
“What we decided is that there are so many children out there who are an inspiration for what we are doing. They all have very different diagnosis, they all have different needs — that’s what the facility is about.”
The learning center is designed for Manhattan area residents with physical and mental challenges like autism, Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity order and language and speech deficits. The facility is staffed with a full-time pediatric occupational therapist and speech language pathologist and a part-time physical therapist.
The idea of the center is to use various treatments together, built upon the individual needs of each child and their case. Wolford said they looked how cooperative treatment works with other needs and illnesses, and they were able to develop a place that she says is needed nationwide.
“We really looked at what we could do in Manhattan, what did Manhattan really need,” she said. “Every city in the United States needs what we found, which is better services that cross over each other and work together cooperatively to help these kids. My passion is special needs children, but it works for cancer. When centers work together and do it in the same place, they are so much more successful.”
Since the facility opened its doors in January, Wolford said it took just five months to reach 90 percent capacity for what they could do. They’re already exploring the possibilities of expanding, and adding additional staff members, which they have already committed to.
Wolford said they have hired an applied behavior therapist, and committed to expanding the facility in the area. And they plan on continued growth in the coming years.
“It already is a very special facility,” she said. “We want to pull in K-State for classes and research and give them the chance to see a successful clinic, providing parent training, working with local schools, providing support for pediatricians. We want to expand into services to help kids when they hit puberty, those unexpected bumps, and then transition them into adulthood and the workplace.
“We want to create something unique and we want to put it in other places in the future.”