COLUMBIA — From anchoring ESPN’s “SportsCenter” to co-hosting ABC’s reality show “Wipeout,” John Anderson stays busy these days. However, he is never too busy to help out for a good cause, especially if it offers a homecoming of sorts.
Anderson, a 1987 graduate of the MU School of Journalism, was in Columbia on Monday to host the inaugural John Anderson Celebrity Golf Invitational at the Country Club of Missouri.
The invitational started out as an idea conceived by Anderson, an avid golfer, several months ago in order to raise money for his Anderson Family Charitable Foundation as well as a Columbia charity.
“The idea of a golf tournament came up, and I thought, I think I can pull that off,” Anderson recalls. “It’s a great way of raising money for charity.”
The process for choosing a Columbia charity required Anderson and his wife Tamara Anderson to do some research. They eventually chose the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, because Anderson “was looking for a charity that could benefit from the majority of the proceeds and (he) wanted to keep it local,” according to Susan McNay, head of the golf committee for the event.
“The Food Bank was just an easy fit,” Tamara Anderson said. “Our foundation helps underserved elementary school children. Our goal is to help kids in public schools get a good education, and they just can’t do that when they’re hungry.”
Every week, the Food Bank’s program, the Buddy Pack, provides 4,200 kids in 80 schools across 32 counties with shelf-stable foods in a backpack over weekends and holiday breaks. Peggy Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Food Bank, says they hope to “aggressively expand” the Buddy Pack program to 100 schools in the fall, and work up to serve 10,000 kids a week in the next two years.
“There were a number of different charities the foundation was considering, so we’re very blessed to be chosen,” Kirkpatrick said. “We’re just thrilled.”
Sponsorships for the tournament allowed for 28 teams made up of college and professional athletes as well as well-known media members and other members of the community.
Among the celebrities in attendance were former MU football stars Mel Gray, Johnny Roland and Chase Daniel, St. Louis Cardinal great Lou Brock, MU Athletics Director Mike Alden and MU men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson. Mike Hall, a 2004 graduate of of the MU School of Journalism and winner of ESPN’s “Dream Job,” who now anchors for the Big Ten Network, was also at the event.
“I’ve known John for a while, and he called me a couple months back and told me to clear my schedule for this day for the event,” Daniel said. “There’s lots of Tigers greats out here, and it’s been a fun day. It’s such a great cause.”
Hall, who has known John Anderson for more than six years, said he was close with Anderson and excited about the event.
“It’s the perfect excuse to play golf for charity,” Hall said.
John Anderson also played in the tournament, even though as host he took many breaks to laugh and catch up with friends and colleagues.
“It’s great that someone who is so well-known gives their time and thinks so much of the town and the cause,” said Ted Farnen, member of the organizing committee for the event. “He’s so well-grounded, and this just says a lot about him.”
With the sponsorships and proceeds from the event, John Anderson was able to present a check to the Food Bank for $30,000.
“We like to think of it as feeding 300 children throughout the school year,” Tamara Anderson said. “We’re thrilled to do that, and are just overwhelmed with the generosity of the community.”
Despite all that John Anderson has done for the event, he said he still can’t take credit for it.
“I feel guilty with my name on it,” he said. “It’s really the other 140 people involved that make it happen.”