This family gives a standing ‘O’ to Champions Committed to Kids

Tristan Jones, center, became an honorary member of the Drury Panthers basketball team this past winter.
Tristan Jones, center, became an honorary member of the Drury Panthers basketball team this past winter. Photo courtesy of Drury University sports information.)

He’s one of those teens you pull for. A kid with a love for basketball. A good teammate who stands and cheers, and even works the crowd.

So, giving a standing O to Tristan Jones, a Marshfield 14-year-old with Down’s syndrome. He marked an item off his so-called bucket list this past winter by being welcomed to the Drury University men’s basketball program.

That’s right, he sat bench on the bench during games, attended practices and, overall, got to hang with one of the best NCAA Division II basketball programs in the country. All thanks to a non-profit called Champions Committed to Kids.

“For me and my husband, it’s meant a lot,” Mom April Jones said. “We never could have dreamed Tristan would have the opportunity to do this.”

Now local businesses and the local public can help Tristan and more kids realize their dreams. Champions Committed to Kids is teamed up again with the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper, a PGA Web.com Tour stop in August in Springfield.

The tournament distributed a record $1 million-plus a year ago, and here’s how to help this year’s 45 charities, including Championship Committed to Kids:

SUPPORTING THE PCCC = SUPPORTING CHARITIES

Buy a $25 TLC Properties Charity Sweepstakes ticket and all the money goes to your favorite charity -- and you also could win this 2015 Ford Mustang.
Buy a $25 TLC Properties Charity Sweepstakes ticket and all the money goes to your favorite charity — and you also could win this 2015 Ford Mustang.
  • HELP CHAMPIONS COMMITTED TO KIDS: Championship Committed to Kids, a non-profit that places local kids with their favorite college or high school team, can be reached at 417-886-5437.
  • BUSINESS SPONSORSHIPS: Businesses can support the PCCC through various sponsorships, such as the daily newsletter, website or through several events such as a dozen Pro-Ams. Call the PCCC staff at 417-887-3400.
  • BUSINESSES DONATE GIFT CARDS: Restaurants, clothing stores and entertainment stops and such are asked to donate a gift card with at least a $25 value in the name of your charity of choice to benefit them in the Golf Ball Charity Auction.
  • FOR GOLF FANS, WIN PRIZES: The purchase of a $25 TLC Properties Charity Sweepstakes ticket enters you to win grand prizes of $10,000 and a 2015 Ford Mustang as well as daily prizes – and you can see the golfers, too. A ticket also serves as a four-day tournament pass.
  • TICKET REVENUE GOES WHERE: Contact the local charity of your choice, simply because they receive revenue directly from those TLC Property Charity Sweepstakes tickets marked with their names.
  • WHEN, WHERE: The tournament is Aug. 7-17 at Highland Springs Country Club, with the pros playing beginning Aug. 13.
  • CONTACT: Call the Price Cutter Charity Championship staff at 417-887-3400.

About Champions Committed to Kids

Tristan Jones traveled with the Drury Panthers all the way through the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Tristan Jones traveled with the Drury Panthers all the way through the NCAA Division II Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Drury University sports information.)

Tristan is just one example of the great work done by Champions Committed to Kids, founded in January 2010 by Jeff Collins.

During the Missouri Winter Games a few years ago, Collins kicked around the idea of a sports-themed event to help lessen the trauma of kids fighting chronic illnesses and disease. To him, it was important to further athletes’ growth in character, honesty and discipline as well.

Now, the non-profit places Ozarks-area kids with teams at Missouri State, Drury, Evangel, Baptist Bible College and almost every high school across the area, plus the Springfield Cardinals.

This is the fourth year of Champions Committed to Kids’ involvement with the Price Cutter tournament, and any funds received goes toward covering for concessions for the families or gas money.

Typically, it’s a two-year relationship between child and team, although the bonds formed between players and the kids last a lifetime.

“Coaches have told me how much it means to their student-athletes,” Collins said. “As I’ve told the athletes, you have a chance to influence a young person’s life. In the community.”

He went on.

“What’s so special about it is that the child and the team have a bond,” Collins said. “They’ve gotten so close to these families that they invite them to (family events). One of the girl athletes at Drury, she flew in to Disney World to race and help out a fundraiser for muscular dystrophy.”

For the Jones family, the non-profit been a blessing, his mother said. Tristan has spent the summer already watching Drury basketball games on YouTube.

And if you saw Kameron Bundy’s game-winning shot at the O’Reilly Family Event Center – the play won a national award – there was Tristan right in the middle of the celebration.

It was a reminder of all that is great about sports.

“It’s been amazing,” April Jones said. “Tristan has come a long ways. He’s always been very social. But now the guys think of him as a teammate.”