In 2002, an outpouring of generosity raised an amazing $13,000 in memory of Fort Walton resident and business woman, Yolanda D. Thomas. Additional donations raised the total to $20,000 which was used to establish the Yolanda D. Thomas Scholarship Endowment Fund at Northwest Florida State College. The state of Florida matched the funds to grant a grand total of $40,000 for the empowerment of disadvantaged women through education.
To continue funding of the scholarship in memory of Mrs. Thomas, the Yolanda D. Thomas Golf Tournament was first held October 29th, 2004 at Shalimar Pointe Golf & Country Club. Despite the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, this inaugural event was supported by 92 players, over 52 sponsors and countless friends and family members. The day was gorgeous, the golf great and the fun contagious. After all expenses were paid, net contributions totaled $23,366 from the one-day event. In the weeks that followed, checks drifted in from impressed supporters to raise the event proceeds to an astounding $29,320!
One of the highlights of the first year tournament was the NFL Silent Auction, featuring autographed merchandise from some of the NFL s biggest names, including a helmet from Chad Pennington of the New York Jets, jerseys from Edgerrin James and Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts, a football autographed by Derrick Brooks of Tampa Bay and another autographed by all the Indianapolis Colts. Thanks to the generosity of these great players, the proceeds from the silent auction created additional excitement as well as increased profits to the golf tournament. The continued interest of numerous friends and family in the NFL actually set the date for the 2nd Annual event.
Having the tournament in the fall did not allow an opportunity for NFL players to be present for the day of golf, so the Thomas Family and tournament committee adjusted the timing of the event to conform with the football off-season and the 2nd Annual Yolanda D. Thomas Golf Tournament officially became a celebrity event on May 6, 2005. Hosted at Emerald Bay in Destin, Florida, this tournament featured 16 celebrity players, including NFL greats from the Indianapolis Colts, the New York Jets, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Dallas Cowboys. A full field of 30 teams and increasing sponsorships added another $28,000 in net proceeds to the Yolanda D, Thomas Scholarship Endowment Fund. Over the last three years, additional donations aside from golf tournament contributions have increased our opportunities to open the doors of education for those with the drive, determination and potential in which Yolanda Thomas so strongly believed.
As of December, 2009, events benefiting the Yolanda D. Thomas Scholarship Endowment Fund have generated approximately $200,000 to provide for local scholarships. Matches from the State of Florida have brought the total scholarship endowment thus far to an amazing $400,000! To date, 26 scholarships have been awarded to deserving young women courtesy of The Yolanda D. Thomas Scholarship Endowment Fund, now one of the largest contributing entities to the Northwest Florida State College scholarship program.