After Julie Gillespie retired in 2014 after more than 20 years as a Federal Way school librarian, Charlie Gillespie wanted to do something to honor his mother.
Charlie Gillespie decided the best way to do that was to raise money for local elementary schools to purchase books for their libraries and established the Julie Gillespie Library Book Golf Tournament, combining a childhood love of the game and his mother’s dedication to literacy.
“The golf tournament is for awareness and for celebrating Federal Way. It is also for long-time teachers,” Charlie Gillespie said.
The third annual Julie Gillespie Library Book Golf Tournament will take place Sunday at North Shore Golf Course, 4101 Northshore Blvd. NE, Tacoma. Tee time is at 8:30 a.m., but sign in begins at 7:45 a.m. People can register at the event.
The winner of the tournament gets a trophy and a picture with local school librarians, who will be there to share food and stories with the golfers. Prizes, donated by local organizations, will also be raffled off.
While Charlie Gillespie, a Decatur High School graduate, created a simple golf tournament fundraiser, the event has blossomed into The Future is Bright organization.
The non-profit raises money to provide elementary schools with books, but organizers are hoping to expand.
“I asked the board members of our organization what they would do with $100,000 of raised funds if we reach that amount,” Gillespie said. “They suggested buying the kids instruments, sending them to leadership camps, as well as many other ideas. We want to provide the youth with not only materials, but also experiences.”
Since its inception, the golf tournament and the charity has grown. Gillespie raised $3,000 the first year of the golf tournament, $6,000 the next, and it is expected to raise around $10,000 this year. It began with about 25 people participating, while now it is a community event with over 100 people.
The Future is Bright organization also has strong ties to Federal Way, as all five board members are graduates of the school district.
While the golf tournament is a source of revenue for the organization, it will not be the only one. Throughout the year, the board members will approach larger companies in Federal Way asking for donations for the schools libraries.
Gillespie said the Julie Gillespie Library Book Golf Tournament has become a reunion for people who grew up in the Federal Way area.
“I’m in San Diego, but I still care so much about the Federal Way community,” Gillespie said. “When I was younger, Federal Way was seen as the cool place to be, and I want to keep it that way.”
Cost to participate in the tournament is $90 per person, which pays for the golf, carts and food, while leaving enough left over to purchase a book for a school library.
“It is a cool feeling getting to stand up and tell everyone who participated in the tournament, ‘everyone here bought a book for a kid today,’ ” Gillespie said.
He said school libraries have been used less frequently for books in recent years because funding is being used for things like technology.
“Elementary kids used to be required to go in the library once a week, but now it’s becoming every other week,” Gillespie said. “Instead of just being a librarian now, the librarians are starting to need to do two jobs at once, like becoming a reading teacher.”
Charlie Gillespie said the tournament raises money for elementary-age books because the younger children may appreciate them more. He said older students have become too invested with their cell phones and may not utilize the texts the way the younger children would.
“We all know that books, newspapers and magazines are becoming less of a utilized medium in our society, but not with children,” Gillespie said in an email. “That plus the fact elementary school are getting less funding and can’t stay stocked with the recent titles kids ask to check out means support is needed. I know from the many years my mom spent teaching kids coming through the library that we need to encourage them to form a habit of reading for enjoyment early.”
This organization has provided funds to four elementary schools since being created: Adelaide Elementary School, Olympic View Elementary School, Rainier View Elementary and Sherwood Forest Elementary School.
“Because of the generous gift from the golf tournament, we have been able to give students access to current high quality, high interest fiction and non-fiction books that we would otherwise not have been able to purchase,” Sherwood Forest Librarian Keri Post said in an email. “Students have been thrilled with the new books and teachers are so grateful that we have current text to support their classroom curriculum.”