Clay’s Golf and Guitars Through the Years…
How It All Began
In May 2014, friends of Gail and Dr. Ed Eichler held a crawfish boil to celebrate the life of their son, Clay, who passed away earlier that year. The crawfish boil was held on Clay’s birthday (a birthday shared with his older brother, Edward) as an opportunity to share memories and uplift the family. It was quickly evident that this memorial would become an annual gathering to raise funds for the community. The Clay Eichler Memorial Fund was created in 2014, and the first Clay’s Golf and Guitars fundraiser was held May 30, 2015, at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. For the past nine years, the Clay Eichler Memorial Fund has benefitted local organizations, some from their inception, in hopes of making a positive impact on the Texarkana community in memory of Clay.
“We pick our recipients after carefully going over their missions and how they would use money the community would essentially give,” Eichler said. “We tried to choose organizations which would provide services to the most people in our area.”
Golf and Guitars
Each year, the fundraiser begins with a golf tournament hosted at Northridge Country Club. Teams, many filled with friends of Clay, gather to compete in a friendly tournament and share memories of their beloved friend. After the golf tournament, a tribute band plays, and attendees gather to eat, celebrate, and dance. The party historically includes a highly-esteemed raffle drawing. A select amount of $100 tickets are sold to provide a chance to win a vacation for four.
“The first year, we had no idea on how to throw a concert,” stated Eichler. “We had Jason Boland and The Stragglers, one of Clay’s favorite bands. We had a friend suggest a tribute band after being at a wedding in Houston and remarking how much fun it was. So, we decided to have tribute bands in the following years who offer music we like to dance to.”
Nine Years of Giving Back
2015—Texas A&M University-Texarkana was awarded $120,000 for a four-year scholarship and an endowed scholarship.
2016 & 2017—The ArkLaTex 100 Club was formed to help families of deceased officers. The Clay Eichler Memorial Fund combined their funds from 2016 and 2017 for a total of $310,000 to donate to the ArkLaTex 100 Club.
“The ArkLaTex 100 Club is a direct result of Clay’s Golf and Guitars,” Eichler said. “This is the only community volunteer non-profit organization supporting police and firefighters. The mission is to provide funds for dependents of our first responders lost in the line of duty. Remaining funds are used to purchase any unbudgeted but necessary life-saving equipment and additional training.”
The ArkLaTex 100 Club distributed funds to the family of slain correctional officer, Lisa Mauldin (47), on December 17, 2016, and to immediate family of Telford Unit Correctional Officer Coy Coffman (65) who passed from complications of COVID-19 on April 27, 2020. On October 27, 2021 Lucas Stephenson (25) died when the fire truck he was driving overturned.
“We provided financial assistance to officer dependents within 72 hours of an officer’s death,” Eichler said. “We also supplied funds for life-saving, unbudgeted firefighter/police officer equipment.”
2018 & 2019—$310,000 benefitted the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club at the C.K. Bender location. In April 2020, Boys and Girls Club closed due to the pandemic, but residual funds will be used to open the first Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in Arkansas early next year.
2020—The traditional May date was moved to August in response to the pandemic. “We were able to host the golf tournament only and awarded $120,000 to the Boy Scouts ScoutREACH program.
2021 & 2022—Haven Homes was the chosen non-profit. Funds raised in 2021 were able to award $170,000 to support ten men for one year at Haven Homes and ten women at the Haven Transitional Homes. Vehicle maintenance and other needs of the ministry were also included. In 2022, the Clay Eichler Memorial Fund awarded Haven Homes with $190,000 with funding being used for the purchase of property and the building of a new 25 bed home for women. Until the permanent home is built, temporary housing is being utilized to house seven women and a house mom.
To date, the Clay Eichler Memorial Fund has awarded over $1.2 million to local organizations.
2023—This year will mark the final year of Clay’s Golf and Guitars. “We never imagined our ‘benefit’ would last nine years when we started this in 2014,” Eichler reflected. “This event has been successful primarily because of the dedication and enthusiasm of everyone who volunteers. Each of these organizations have been excellent stewards of money raised by our wonderful and generous community members.”
The golf tournament will take place the morning of May 20 at Northridge Country Club. The concert in the evening will feature Satisfaction: A Rolling Stones Tribute Show. The raffle ticket drawing will take place during the intermission at the concert, and the winner does not need to be present to win.
Funds raised will be given to TRAHC’s Arts on Main program.
CLAY'S GOLF AND GUITARS' BANDS
2015—Jason Boland and The Stragglers
2016—CMA Artist Winner and Texas Country Music Hall of Famer Sonny Burgess
2017—Jonathan Moody Band
2018—The Fab 5: Beatles and 1960s Tribute Band
2019—Dancing Dream: ABBA Tribute Band
2021—ESCAPE: The Ultimate Journey Tribute Band
2022—Sail On: Beach Boys Tribute Band
2023—Satisfaction: The International Rolling Stones Tribute Show
Click here to read more of Clay’s Golf and Guitars’ origin story in “Hope Remains.”