While attending a Houston Rockets playoff game in 1995, Southampton resident Tom Young noted four prime courtside seats that remained empty throughout the sold-out event. He thought of the children he worked with as a volunteer at Casa de Esperanza, a nonprofit for children in crisis, and how great it would have been to see some of those children in those unused seats.
After doing some research, Young, vice president of business development for Deep Gulf Energy, 738 Texas 6 South, learned no Houston charity organizations existed that gave event tickets to underprivileged or at-risk children.
Although the thought and effort seemed daunting at the time, Young was determined to start such a group.
“I had just left a company where I was working insane hours in 2003, and I took on consulting work that year,” Young said. “I did all the research into various charities that served children and looked at events that children could benefit from attending. After that I began recruiting a board and asked for seed money donations.
“The David Weekley Co. gave us $10,000 to begin, and that is how we got the Web site up and running.”
The result is Texas TicKids, located at 1302 Waugh Drive.
Young formed a board of directors in 2003, the organization received nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service by 2004, and Texas TicKids went active with a Web site in March 2005.
Young also recruited his sister, Denise Hamilton of The Woodlands, as executive director to run day-to-day operations.
So far, the organization has distributed 17,000 free tickets to more than 110 charity organizations serving children.
Groups include Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston, Covenant House, Casa de Esperanza and the Salvation Army.
“Those first months, I called everyone I knew and got three to 400 tickets donated for future events by telling people, if you can’t go, give it to us,” Young said. “You’ll be filling unused seats, and you’ll get a tax deduction.
“In my way of thinking, it is good for the venue in having all empty seats filled, and it makes kids feel worthy; that someone cared enough to get them to that event. I wondered why no one else was doing this, it is such a win-win thing. This changes children’s lives, giving them something to look forward to.”
Texas TicKids has an overhead annual cost of $50,000 that pays Hamilton, the organization’s one part-time employee, Web site hosting and printing expenses.
All printing and graphics branding were donated by Identity Lounge, a visual communications firm, and Finch Creative.
Any additional funds raised beyond expenses go towards purchasing blocks of tickets to events such as Wiggles concerts, Disney on Ice, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and the circus.
Children have received tickets to sporting events, fine arts programs such as The Nutcracker, and movies.
Shell Oil Corp. gave Texas TicKids a total of $20,000, which enabled the group to purchase more than 2,000 tickets to children’s events. Apache Corp. provides an annual donation, too.
TicKids also accepts individual ticket donations. Donated tickets are posted on the Web site at www.texastickids.org, which children’s charities can then claim.
Texas TicKids held its first fundraiser in September 2006, a golf tournament at Wildcat Golf Club that raised $25,000.
The vision that Young first had of the joy of children attending events has come to pass.
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams to think that I have touched so many children’s lives through this program,” Young said.
Said Hamilton, “It is so satisfying seeing kids light up at these events. I see them all dressed up (for the fine arts events) and I see their response when they are there in the seats.”
Both Young and Hamilton hope to share the information with other cities so, as Young said, “We can get more kids in seats, and change more kids’ lives one ticket at a time.”