Concessions raise funds for charities at BellSouth

DULUTH - Steve Lyons runs a wedding video business during the week.

On Wednesday, he was running a concession stand.

The 59-year-old was selling hamburgers, hot dogs and soft drinks for the American Liver Foundation, whose stand overlooks the 18th hole. Not a bad way to spend a warm and bright spring day, but Lyons has a personal stake in how much fast-food his stand sells.

Lyons, who has Hepatitis C, needs a liver transplant. He is one of 250 in Georgia on a waiting list to get one. His disease leaves the once-avid tennis player too weak for much physical activity.

"I feel good today," said Lyons. "I may need to sleep a lot tomorrow."

The American Liver Foundation has just one of the many concession stands run by various nonprofits. They all use the BellSouth Classic to raise money for charities, including Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the tournament's primary fundraising recipient.

The Foundation aims to make $3,000 during the four-day tournament, which begins today and is held at the TPC at Sugarloaf in Duluth. A portion of that money will be spent on researching ways to make new and better medications to fight liver diseases.

The people running BellSouth concession stands come from different walks of life - business owners, grandmothers, military vets - but all value the spirit of compassion.

At the 18th green, a local chapter of the philanthropic organization Beta Sigma Phi sells snacks and drinks. The $2,500 its concession stand hopes to make represents the chapter's biggest fundraiser of the year, allowing it to give money to the Ronald McDonald House, the fight against cystic fibrosis and breast cancer.

All those $6.50 burgers Carol Castellano and friends sell this week means their charity can buy Christmas clothes and toys for poor children at Rockbridge Elementary in Norcross.

"We couldn't do our community work without this," said Castellano, who takes a week off from work, along with her husband Jack, to run the Eastern Star concession stand.

Food prices are relatively high at all the concession stands. That might confuse a BellSouth Classic first-timer. Castellano understands. Six dollars is a lot to pay for a burger. But once she explains it all goes to charity, the sticker-shock wears off.

"It calms them," she said. "They turn happy and become very nice."