Matthew Register remembers the feeling he had as a child when he woke up Christmas morning to presents packed under the tree. While many get ready for trick-or-treating this Halloween, he and others will be raising money to ensure other local children have that same feeling come this Dec. 25.
For years, Register, with the help of family, friends, his community and church association, has been able to play Santa to a group of children through proceeds raised as part of “Teeing it Up for Toys” Billy N. Harrell Memorial Golf Tournament. This year’s edition will be held on Oct. 31 at Greensbridge Golf Course in Garland.
The four-man superball tournament, which has been going on for the better part of the last decade, will have a 9 a.m. shotgun start. The cost is $240 per team, with proceeds benefiting the Eastern Baptist Association Toy Store Ministry.
Register recalled a discussion years ago with Rev. Paul Langston, missions director for Eastern Baptist Association, about expanding the toy ministry. Shiloam Baptist Church, where Register and his family attends and his father Tim pastors, had taken up toys in the past, but Register asked Langston what more could be done.
“I said, ‘it feels like we could do more,’” Register recalled. “I remember when I was a kid and I woke up on Christmas morning and the room was full. My kids have been fortunate to have that too. Christmas isn’t all about toys, but to a 4 or 5 year old, it is.”
The first year of the tournament, well over 100 children who otherwise may not have received Christmas gifts instead beamed with new possessions that were their very own.
“It was an astounding thing to be able to help 150 children that Christmas,” Register said. “This year, we’ll probably have 850-1,000 kids in Sampson and Duplin county that we help. It’s grown substantially. We were just serving kids in our area and now we’re serving kids in two counties. That’s just an amazing thing.”
One toy distribution in southern Sampson has turned into four or five across Sampson and Duplin.
“The Billy N. Harrell Memorial Golf Tournament has helped the EBA provide toys for nearly 1,000 children each Christmas,” Langston stated. “Before Matthew had the vision to sponsor the (tournament) we served less than 300 children. Because of the generosity of golfers and sponsors families receive food, toys, Bibles and sometimes even winter coats.”
This year, Register gave up a little of the planning to his father Tim along with others. Southern Smoke, the little Garland-based barbecue joint started in early 2014, has garnered attention from across the region and state and its off-shoot catering business has been in high demand, especially during the current wedding season.
They are good problems to have, but Register knew he did not want the golf event to go by the wayside because of the benefits it has brought to his community and those across Sampson and Duplin.
“Everyone has really helped out on the planning side to make sure this event keeps going,” he said, noting his father and many others.
He said hole sponsors and toy donations are still being sought leading up to the Oct. 31 tournament.
The entry fee includes golf, breakfast biscuits and lunch at Southern Smoke BBQ after golf, as well as beverages and snacks on the course. Extra lunch tickets can be purchased for $7.
All the money goes toward a great cause, Register noted. He has been to plenty of toy distributions and said the feeling of giving, and the gift you get in return, is always overwhelming.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “You don’t realize how big it is until you see the parents coming in and being able to shop.”
Register recalled the first year the toy distribution saw new bicycles given out to children. When he traveled through southern Sampson County in the days that followed, he saw youngster after youngster atop brand new bicycles — and knew that was because of the drive.
“It’s an unbelievable Christmas present to me,” Register said. “This has become this big association-wide thing, just from what Paul and I talked about that one day. There will be hundreds and hundreds of kids who get something because of this. That really is an amazing thing. It’s a great day of golf and fellowship for a great cause.”
And it has an equally great name attached to it, Register attested.
Harrell was a gentleman who attended the Registers church and was a “second grandfather” to Matthew.
“He loved kids and was a integral part of my life,” said Register, who knew Harrell since he was 5 years old. “He was also a golfer and golfed three or four times a week. We had some fun times.”
Harrell passed away before the first tournament bearing his name came to fruition, but Register said the tournament serves as a fitting tribute to the man, whose children have attended in years past.
“Because of his love for golf and his love of children, I felt it was fitting to name this golf tournament after him,” said Register. “He was a very important part of my life.”
Entry for the tournament must be in by Oct. 28. Checks can be made payable to Siloam Baptist Church. For more information on how to participate or donate, call 910-385-5194.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.