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Full Circle - Aces Fore Austin

John 13:7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

This was the bible verse I read sitting at Children's Hospital of Alabama during a 60-day hospital stay with Austin. It was the bible verse of the day that just so happened to be for his birthday, June 27th.

Have you ever had a moment when you felt like life came full circle?

Well, that is the feeling I've had since we hosted our inaugural Aces Fore Austin - Charity Golf Scramble in June.

The Results

We are proud and humbled to announce we raised over $22,000.

That may not seem like a lot of money to some, but to us it's a culmination of lots of love and grit. The culmination of love is grief and yet we loved despite the inevitable of Austin's life. We opened our hearts to it... To grieve deeply is to have loved fully.

$16,000 is being donated to the Undiagnosed Disease Program and the University of Alabama's (UAB) Department of Genetics. Because achieving an accurate diagnosis can be instrumental in guiding management, treatment, and counseling. It took us nearly 5 years to find a diagnosis for Austin.

$6,000 is being donated to the Raiden Science Foundation to support Oregon Health & Science University's drug repurposing research for the UBA5 Gene Mutation, the condition that ultimately changed the course of our lives forever.

What if I told you that the Aces Fore Austin event was in the making for over 10 years.

Would you believe me? Well, that is exactly what happened.

How It Started

In 2012-2013, I was a graduate student completing my master's degree in sport management when I was tasked with overseeing and developing the WarHawk Cup golf tournament to raise funds for Auburn Montgomery's Sport Management and Women's Basketball programs.

I didn't know this experience and concept would become a building block for a public charity Lindsey and I would launch 6 years later.

Fast forward to 2019 when Lindsey and I co-founded the Austin 1st Foundation (A1F). The business plan included a charity golf tournament.

Dr. George Schaefer is a dear family friend and mentor that started out as a professor of mine at AUM.

He gave me the opportunity to organize my first sporting event and asked if I wanted to take the same concept and turn it into a fundraiser for Austin 1st.

The concept was to utilize the sales and marketing graduate class at AUM as a support team for the golf tournament, Aces Fore Austin, while providing a practical event planning experience for the students.

We announced the golf tournament in 2019 with the date set for June 2020. I truly believe God knows how stubborn we are and this little thing called covid got in our way. We decided to postpone the tournament for another year.

Tough Years

Looking back, I realized the bigger challenge and priority was right in front of us, as Austin's condition would begin to worsen. If I sat here today and said the last 3 years were easy, I would be lying to you and myself. To be blunt, none of Austin's 9 years on this earth were easy. Some days were miserable, others had glimpses of what Austin used to be. That bright shining smile and his contagious laugh were slowly being taken away.

Those last few years felt like the movie, Groundhog Day, in the worst way possible. Quality of life was a everyday focus for us, we exhausted every ounce of energy and resources we had to maximize Austin's quality of life.

Many times, we were reminded by doctors, therapists, friends, and family that we were doing all we could for him. Lindsey sacrificed her career, her time, her strength, and so many other things to be the best mom she could be for Austin.

Think about being tied to a rope for a second. Can you go as far as you want? Can you do everything you want to do? Does it restrict your ability to be free? Being a parent and medical caregiver of a child who requires 24/7 care is like being tied to a rope and holding an extra full-time job. It restricts you and your families ability to live a full life. It presents more daily challenges and obstacles than you can ever imagine.

The severity of Austin's condition put a strain on every part of our lives. How we made it through those challenging times is a God thing!

Being Austin's parents was not a job, it was a privilege. Being his caregiver was a job and one that Lindsey and I juggled and persevered through for 9 years. As he got older the tasks became harder for our family members who could assist us and we began to split duties, as if we were on two separate shifts at work. Those split duties even spilled over into our personal lives, many times Sullivan would ask us if we could finally do something together. For many years I could not remember the last time Lindsey and I went on a vacation or even a dinner date together. Believe me, it was not from a lack of effort.

We even began to plan for how we would handle life with a soon to be 6 year old who deserved as much of our attention as Austin got. We had so many life plans and for 9 years we got accustomed to those plans being put on pause or not happening at all. Adapt and overcome was our motto, with very little room for excuses.

The golf tournament and A1F had to take a back seat. As the foundation is named, Austin came 1st. Those things or people you love, you sacrifice everything for and put their needs 1st. Everyone at some point will be faced with that decision, we are average people that chose to put our needs aside to make the best for a child who didn't choose to be helpless or suffer tremendously on a daily basis.

Sometimes I personally felt like a failure when our progress with the foundation and the golf tournament diminished. I've always been a person to take pride in being tough and being able to handle multiple challenges at once. When I start something, I finish it!

After Austin passed away on July 16, 2022, the furthest thing from my mind was the golf tournament. We had given back through A1F in smaller ways over the last few years but nothing that made me feel like we were truly maximizing Austin's legacy and impact.

Dr. Schaefer would again influence my decision making by encouraging us to restart the planning for Aces Fore Austin. One of the biggest rocks in life would then leave this earth two months later. My best friend and the reason we called Austin, AJ, was gone forever. I like to think that Dad knew the golf tournament would happen, even through the hardest times of our lives.

What I feel most proud of today is that my family endured the worst of the worst and came out on top! Coming out on top does not always mean that everything you wanted you got or that it was rainbows and roses through the process. Most people will never know or understand the experiences we had with Austin.

Even in the darkest of days, you can find the seed of good. You can find the light!

Three of the most impactful people in our lives are not here with us today to see the success of our grit and determination. Even though we would give anything for them to have seen the amount of support we have a received, we are at peace knowing that each one of them (Ray Little Jr., Curt Terling, and Austin Terling) gave us the strength and wisdom to continue what we started.

To say that life has come full circle in the last 9-10 years is a major understatement. If your eyes and heart are open to it, you will see that God had a bigger plan for us. To go from a golf tournament that helped me graduate with a master's degree, to the same event and people helping us raise $22,000. Selflessly, to help others going down the path that Austin traveled.

And we are just getting started...…the 2nd annual Aces Fore Austin Charity Golf Scramble has been set for June 10, 2024.

Full Circle

John 13:7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Life came full circle on June 12, 2023, and I started to understand a little bit of God's plan.

Whether I like all parts of the plan or not.

Austin 1st Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) Public Charity - See the impact we make and support our mission to be Champions for Rare Disease by raising awareness and research dollars for families in Alabama & beyond.

Lindsey's original sketch and final logo created by Auburn Jr. HS students & faculty.

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Aug 02, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Well said, my friend!

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