Austin Chapter Goes Wild for Scholarships at Orange & White Kickoff

Zebras and tigers and Longhorns—oh my! This past weekend, nearly 300 Austin-area Texas Exes were treated to a true animal safari at the Austin Chapter’s Orange and White Kickoff event, held out at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch in Buda.

The chapter’s largest annual fundraising event, this year’s Orange and White Kickoff featured appearances by the Matt Deaton and Front Porch band, Texas Cheer, the pom squad, the Hook ‘Em mascot, and the Texas Cowboys with Smokey the Cannon in tow. While waiting to take bus tours of the ranch—which is home to more than 2,000 exotic animals, including tigers, zebras, and giraffes—attendees chowed down on PoK-e-Jo’s BBQ and Tiff’s Treats.

“This has really become a family event,” says Austin Chapter president Lee Maaz, BS ’86, BS ’88, Life Member. “From taking pictures with the cheerleaders to seeing all the animals, it’s really fun for all ages. We even added an extra tour this year, because we didn’t want anyone to leave without a chance to do everything.”

Last year’s Orange and White Kickoff raised more than $6,000 for scholarships for Austin-area students. The numbers aren’t in yet, but Maaz predicts that this year’s event brought in even more. Texas Disposal Systems generously donated the facility, and Longhorns had the opportunity to bid on a variety of silent auction items—from a signed Colt McCoy jersey to football tickets and a burnt-orange dress from Longhorn Fashions.

Another exciting addition to the auction this year was the chance to fire Smokey the Cannon outside the venue. Chapter treasurer Richard Heller, BS ’97, MS ’99, PhD ’03, Life Member, wanted so badly to win, he periodically checked the bid sheet throughout the night to make sure he was still in the lead—and it paid off. Nearly the entire banquet hall emptied out to watch Heller shoot Smokey off outside.

“Smokey the Cannon is a staple at UT gamedays, and I’ve always wanted to be able to be on the field and fire it,” Heller says. “This was the second-best thing. It was a great way to cap off the evening.”

The chapter will use the proceeds, in conjunction with those from other events throughout the year, to provide 10 scholarships to local high school students who are headed to UT. Maaz hopes the Orange and White Kickoff continues to grow bigger and better, so that number can continue to rise year after year.

“This event is something I think every Texas Ex should do,” Maaz says. “How many opportunities do you get to meet the cheerleaders? To get your picture made with the mascot? Every Ex in Austin needs to get out here at least once.”

Photos by Matt Valentine.


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