Derek Dooley talks about his $220,000 donation to charity
When Derek Dooley was hired by Tennessee and signed a contract that would pay him close to $2 million annually, he immediately surveyed the landscape to see which local charities would benefit most from the money he was ready to give back.
The Tennessee football coach was promptly overwhelmed by his options.
"The hardest thing is everyone wants to use you to help them raise money for something," Dooley said. "It's so difficult to say no, but you have to because you can't go on everybody's crusade."
Dooley and his wife Allison eventually settled on Variety of Eastern Tennessee, and on Friday they collaborated to present a $220,000 donation to eight East Tennessee charities.
Play It Smart, Jason Witten's Score Foundation, two Boys & Girls Clubs (Smokey Mountains and Tennessee Valley), Imagination Library, In Full Motion, Cerebral Palsy Center and Camp Koinonia all will receive a slice of the donation, which spawned from multiple events during the Orange and White Game weekend in April.
"We spend a lot of energy on problems all over the world, but to me the best solutions, they always start on the grassroots level and that's local," Dooley said before a small group of sponsors, donors and UT administrators Friday at the West Club of Neyland Stadium.
"It's important to me that I don't go on a worldwide cause. I put all my energy on trying to help East Tennessee because that's our community."
While diverse in nature, all eight charities benefit one common group: children. That was by design, said Dooley, who considers himself to be a member of "the kids business."
"To me, there's no greater asset, no greater resource for our country than our young people," Dooley said. "All I do every day is try to motivate and teach and develop young people to be great citizens, to be good people and it's quite a challenge."
A charitable wing of Knoxville-based Regal Cinemas and Regal Entertainment Group, Variety's mission is "to help disadvantaged or disabled children," according to its official website. Since 2002, the organization has raised $2 million for children's charities in East Tennessee.
Working with the Dooleys, the group pooled funds from a number of sponsors and organized events that included a golf tournament and a cocktail party at the Dooleys' house.
"I just have to stand there and smile," Dooley said. "That's the easy part."