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LAKE WYLIE --
Jack Bantley is a start-up entrepreneur, an extensive traveler and a philanthropist. Not bad for a sixth-grader.
Bantley, 11, arrived in Lake Wylie with his family almost two years ago. For fun, he began walking the course at River Hills Country Club with his dad. If he saw a lost ball, he picked it up.
The act became a hobby and, with help from the retriever his mom got him for Christmas, became a business. Cleaning, sorting and reselling the balls to players put enough green in Bantleys pocket to buy the odds and ends hed like when an allowance runs short.
So far, the ball business has been rolling for about a year. Hes weathered economic downturn (the course closing for summer to repair greens). He adheres to strict business regulation: no scooping up balls while players are still using them.
This is my first time really having a business, Bantley said.
Yet hes already swiping a page from the big corporations, partnering with charitable causes. And upping the ante 50 percent of his sales now go to Kenya Orphanage Project.
I just decided to do it, Bantley said, having watched a video of orphans served by the Lake Wylie nonprofit. It just kind of impacted me. It looked like some of those kids, its just really bad.
KOP works with children in Nairobi, Kenya. Next year the group, founded by Monique Boekhout of Lake Wylie, will celebrate 10 years of sponsoring children, taking mission trips and working to educate young Kenyans.
It certainly has been a demanding but extremely rewarding experience for me personally, Boekhout said.
Boekhout plays tennis with and shares mutual friends with Jacks mom, Anita. Thats how the family heard about Kenyan efforts, and why Jack decided to help.
They dont have a lot of things I have, he said.
Boekhout witnessed her share of creative fundraising in nearly a decade, but this one is the first to have her avidly collecting egg cartons. The money raised will buy school supplies at House of Hope, a boarding school thats home to more than 150 orphans.
Boekhouts group focuses on helping youth through education, which makes the latest partnership that much sweeter in that its an Oakridge Middle School student standing out between holes 15 and 16 with his golf cart shop.
Charity aside, Bantleys business success hasnt changed him. He still loves boats and baseball, hanging with friends and snapping LEGO pieces together. He still thinks about his buddies back in St. Louis. He still works through nights of math, vocab and social studies homework.
He still loves golf, too. Its just now he doesnt mind an errant shot or two. Hes perhaps the lone local player who cashes in more on lost tee shots than those steered straight down the middle.
Bantley doesnt know how long hell maintain his business model. But for now, and as long as children in need can benefit, he figures its worth a shot.
Kenya Orphanage Project is a volunteer organization serving 32 children in Nairobi, Kenya. The group has sent more than 80 people on mission trips, and has more planned.
Founder Monique Boekhout leaves Nov. 9 for Kenya with Kelli Dawkins, dean of academic student affairs at York Technical College. Last year, Dawkins assessed the children being helped by KOP. This year, shell help them select careers based on high school grades. The pair will visit technical and trade schools in the area.
Education has been and remains the key to the future for these orphans, Boekhout said. That is why KOP is moving forward and wants to reach as many children as possible.
For more information, visit kenyaorphanageproject.org.