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Since 1995: The 29th Randy

by Jim Obermeyer



The mission of the Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic is to help families in the exhibition industry who have suffered severe tragedies or face insurmountable medical expenses. The commitment is to provide financial and emotional support to all past and present recipients and their families. 

Randy Smith was a project manager for an Atlanta based exhibit house, IDEAS, Inc. He died tragically in an automobile accident on his way home after working long hours at the Sporting Goods Super Show in January of 1995. Randy left behind a wife Jenny, and two small children, Austin and Justin.

Two of Randy’s coworkers at IDEAS, Ted Peterson and Rich Johnson, started the RSMGC in August of 1995 in hopes of helping the emotional and financial burden Randy’s death caused his family. The first two years the event focused solely on providing support for the Smith family.

In 1997 the decision was made to open up the event to other families who had suffered a similar tragedy or faced true hardship. The first additional recipient was Nicole Sheldon, daughter of longtime shipping industry veteran Chris Sheldon. Nicole was 8 years old at the time and had recently undergone a heart and liver transplant. Since its inception, The Randy and its ancillary events have assisted over 170 families with financial and emotional support.

“It is amazing to me how the people of this industry have committed to this cause and this event over the last 29 years and have allowed us to continue to serve those in need,” said Rich Johnson.

The RSMGC blankets all segments of the exhibition industry from exhibitors to show managers to general contractors all down the trade show supply chain. One of the many things the founders and the governing board are most proud of is how they’ve been able to bring everyone together for this day of fellowship and goodwill. Many competing companies in their respective fields have known the Randy as the day they “lay down their swords” for the good of the overall cause.

Sponsorships for the event offer a wide range of opportunities for both companies and individuals to be a part of the financial support of families in need.  From individual patrons at $100 up to the highest corporate sponsorship at $3500, there is a level of contribution for anyone that wants to join the effort. Or you can just sign up to golf or attend the banquet – no sponsorship is required to be a part of this event.

There are a number of other events throughout the country that also support the recipients. The Chicago Randy just celebrated 20 years this year, and consistently contributes significant funds to the cause.  There are also golf events in Las Vegas and Southern California. Atlanta also hosts a Bowlathon every year to support the cause.

So, what is it about this event that has allowed it to sustain this momentum for almost 30 years, in an industry that changes so rapidly?  And how do you describe what it is like to attend this particular ‘golf outing’?

Yes, it is a golf outing. If you are a golfer, this is a great event, with lots of opportunities for fun on the course. But you don’t have to be a golfer to be a part of it. And it is an industry event; in fact, one of the best opportunities to talk business with some of the most influential people in our industry. And it is a networking event. There are literally hundreds of people from our industry here to connect with, talk with and hang out with.

Call it what you want, but when it all comes down to it, it is really all about the stories. The stories of our industry.  The stories of our people’s lives:

Stories of people and companies touched by having one of their own suddenly become a recipient and then committing to becoming involved in supporting this cause.

Stories of people showing up each year and seeing each other for the first time since last year – with hugs and handshakes – coming from all over the country to ‘lay down their swords’ and spend a day for this cause.

Stories of volunteers – lots of volunteers – committing to a day in the heat to make sure this event – and the people participating – have the most successful one yet.

Stories of the leaders of this event – Rich Johnson, Robert Laarhoven and Sandra Braun, who continue to amaze us with their passion and commitment.

Stories of golfers contributing to everything – donating their own cash for mulligans, move it on ups, raffle tickets by the thousands, cigars, food and drinks – all to support the cause.

Stories of past recipients – 29 years’ worth – more than 170 in all, remembered by tribute videos and stories told in conversations throughout the day. And some who still come here to participate every year.

Yes, it is a golf outing, and it is an industry event, and it is a networking opportunity. But it really is all about the stories of our industry and our people. You cannot attend this event and not be drawn into the stories.  

Unlike so many other charity events where the proceeds go to unnamed and unknown recipients, the receipts from The Randy go directly to people in our industry.  People whose stories are told.  People we know personally.

Let’s just say it like this: “once you go, then you’ll know”. So go. October 6th, Stone Mountain Golf Course, Atlanta. Click here for more info.

Jim Obermeyer has been in the exhibits and events industry over 40 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house owner. He can be reached at jobermeyer903@gmail.com

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