Just a few weekends ago, a young sports fanatic’s dream came true.
Zach Dailey, a senior at Columbia High School, has always dreamed about going to an Ohio State University football game.
Thanks to Jon Wehrenberg and members of the community, he will get to go to his first OSU game on Nov. 16.
Wehrenberg is a Columbia Middle School teacher and basketball coach who has known Dailey since his grade school days.
To honor Dailey, who is autistic, and help raise awareness for the Autism Speaks advocacy organization, Wehrenberg organizes a “Zach and Friends” golf tournament every year.
This year marked the seventh year of the tournament, which featured a special twist at the end.
Wehrenberg worked with other community members who are involved in the tournament, including his friend, Josh Hogan, a teacher at Rogers Elementary School in Waterloo.
Hogan was able to get his hands on four tickets to an Illini versus Buckeyes game at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign.
On the day of the golf tournament, the group set up a mock auction, unbeknownst to Zach, during which his father was to bid higher and higher on the four game tickets.
“We planned to have the ticket prices just go astronomically high,” Wehrenberg said.
With Dailey looking on nervously as his father Mike bid higher and higher against others on the tickets – up to $2,500 – the Dailey family “won” the tickets.
“It takes a community to pull something like this off,” Wehrenberg said. “It all played out pretty well.”
The tournament is part of a bigger-picture organization Wehrenberg started to create a network to transition young adults with autism into the workforce.
Dailey’s mother came up with the acronym T.E.A.M. Work (transitioning exceptional adults into meaningful work), and the idea has taken off from there.
“They are so gifted in so many ways, and I really just wanted to do something for them,” Wehrenberg said. “The golf tournament is a great way to get the word out about it.”
Wehrenberg said the tournament raised about $6,500 this year.
“With that we can buy iPads for the kids, and we also have a scholarship going on right now for a young man to send him to camp,” he said. “My goal is for businesses to get involved and see that there is a need for something like this in the community.”
Sponsorship for the golf tournament has doubled since its beginning, and Wehrenberg said he is already beginning to plan for next year’s event.
For more information, call Wehrenberg at 618-977-7471.
For more information on Autism Speaks, visit online at www.autismspeaks.org.
Watch Dailey’s excitement during the mock OSU ticket auction and his reaction when his father gets the winning bid: