Kevin Costner contributes to WHS Foundation event


Once again this spring, on the eve of Woodlake’s gala Western Week, the Woodlake High School Foundation will host its Spring Dinner. It’s the group’s major fundraiser of the year, and all proceeds go into its Scholarship Fund that, over the decades, has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to graduating WHS seniors.

The event will be held Friday, April 29, beginning at 6 p.m., at the Woodlake Memorial Building. Tickets for the benefit are $50 (and only 200 will be sold).

Woodlake High School alumni may attend for free, but there’s one condition. Their graduation from WHS had to have been one of the years from 1935 to 1950.

As has become customary, the event will include dinner, specialty desserts, and Brewbakers beer. Cash prizes may be won simply by being a ticketholder, and guests are also welcome to participate in the live and silent auctions, which should be especially lively with the participation of a professional auctioneer.

What’s in your wallet?— This year, the auction is where things will get interesting. Some coveted items are on the auction block, including trips, tickets, art, and more. 

But if you’re a fan of mega-star Kevin Costner or any of the four dozen or so movies he has appeared in over the last quarter century, then you are not going to want to miss this event. During the span of his career, Kevin has won two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and one Emmy Award.

Because of his ties with Tony Casares, director of educational options at Woodlake Unified School District’s Bravo Lake High School, Kevin Costner recently signed a Bull Durham poster and a baseball bat, which will be auctioned off as a set at the WHS Foundation event. The ink is barely dry on this Hollywood memorabilia as they were just autographed on March 28.

Kevin and his Visalia history— Here’s some local trivia about Kevin Costner. He attended Mt. Whitney High in 1971-1972, during his junior year in high school and would have graduated from there in 1973 had he stuck around. But his dad’s career with SCE had other plans, and the family moved from Visalia to Ventura after one year.

“Kevin and I got to know each other when we played on the same JV baseball team,” said Tony Casares, who was raised in Visalia and attended Mt. Whitney High. “I was a sophomore and he was a junior.” 

Tony said that Kevin has stayed in contact over the years with a number of his classmates from the Class of 1973 that Tony also knows. 

“We reconnected about eight years ago when his band, ‘Kevin Costner & Modern West,’ came to the Tachi Palace,” explained Tony. “About 30 of us, including the former coach of the team, Jim Barnett, attended the show and met up with him afterward and presented him with some Mt. Whitney baseball memorabilia including a number 2 jersey, which was the number he wore.”  

Tony was compelled to get in touch with Kevin again in 2015 after seeing the movie McFarland, USA. In that role, Kevin starred as real-life cross-country running coach Jim “Blanco” White.

“I told him how that movie resonated with the people of the Central Valley, elevating the farmworker and their hard work and their efforts in small towns across our area,” said Tony. “Kevin responded, and we have kept a running dialog every now and again.”  

Last summer, Tony and another dozen or so friends traveled to Folsom near Sacramento to see Kevin and his band perform.

“We hung out before the concert, after the concert, and again the morning after the concert,” said Tony. “Kevin was open about his career and wanted to know more about what was going on in Visalia and about people who he remembered.”  

Last month, Tony, along with his younger brother and a friend, met with Kevin at his Santa Barbara area home, where he graciously signed the auction items, as well as his recently released book that he co-authored with Jon Baird, entitled The Explorer’s Guild – Volume One: A Passage to Shambhala (Simon & Schuster, October 2015, 784 pages, $29.99 hardover; $12.99 e-edition), the first installment in an adventure series. 

Immediately upon presenting the autographed items to Tony, Kevin was on a flight to Europe as part of the promotion of his most recent movie, Criminal, which opened Friday, April 15. Kevin also has two other recent projects, Fastball, a baseball documentary that was released last month, and Hidden Figures, due out in 2017.

Purchase tickets for the Spring Dinner at the Woodlake High School office or by calling Dee Rochin, WHS Foundation president, at 730-8025.

Although not advised, if you miss this event and still want something Kevin Costner, Tony will be donating a poster/bat set to FoodLink’s Kentucky Derby Party fundraiser (Saturday, May 7) and to the Castle Rock Elementary School carnival’s silent auction, also in May.

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