Central Texas man goes big in efforts to brighten children’s lives

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HALLSBURG, Texas (KWTX) A Central Texas man who is known for helping children who are terminally ill or struggling with other issues has created a nonprofit in order to help even more people.

Jimmy Bennett, shown here with Parker Spearman of Hubbard, has created a tax-exempt nonprofit to expand his efforts to help children faced with serious illnesses or other struggles.(Courtesy photo)

Jimmy Bennett, of Hallsburg, was granted 501c3 status for the tax-exempt JMB Fishing Foundation.

Bennett’s primary way of bringing joy to others’ lives is through introducing them to the outdoors by taking them on fishing and hunting trips.

The spark that inspired his efforts came during a phone call to his wife to complain about a tough day of work in the oilfield.

“She stopped me and said, ‘do you know what happened to Layla, the little girl who plays in the stands with our kids at baseball games? She has cancer and has been given just months to live,’” he remembered.

The story touched Bennett so deeply he immediately rallied friends and even strangers to put on an event to help the family of Layla Evetts, of Riesel and Joshua, who was diagnosed with a form of cancer that starts in the brain stem.

The result was the “Gala for Layla” fundraiser, which attracted a crowd of 700 to the Lee Lockwood Library in Waco and raised more than $155,000 for the family.

“Jimmy was a real blessing to our family when we needed it the most,” Layla’s father, Corey Evetts said.

And Layla is far from the only child he’s helped since.

Gentry Dokter, 7, of China Spring has been fighting hepatoblastoma, a very rare form of liver cancer primarily affecting children who are 3 or younger.

Bennett organized two fundraisers for his family, a fishing tournament in March at Lake Waco and an event last fall at the Waco Shriner’s Camp that raised more than $60,000.

This summer, Bennett learned of a 30-year-old man with special needs who had never had a birthday party.

He helped surprise him with one at Lake Waco.

Chris Barrington had the time of his life enjoying cake and spending an afternoon on the lake with Jimmy.

“You know there are so many things that kids want to do,” Bennett told KWTX at the party.

“They want to go to Disney. I have one that wants to go to Hawaii on a shark fishing trip. Chris is happy to come out on Lake Waco and ride around on a boat. That’s all he wants to do,” he said.

The foundation has only had one event since it was created, a corn hole tournament that raised $1,500.

Another one is scheduled soon.

But in the meantime, Bennett is working full steam ahead to plan ways to bring joy to others.

On Oct. 12 the foundation will take 50 special needs children along with 50 boat captains on Lake Belton for a day of fishing.

In late October the foundation will take eight families including six children with cancer and two with autism on a hunting trip to Missouri, spending Halloween night at Great Wolfe Lodge in Kansas City.

Bennett says they’re still a few thousand dollars short of the money they’ll need to cover all expenses, including travel and hotels.

Evetts says the sky is the limit for the man known for his big heart.

“I look forward to seeing the lives his foundation touches,” Evetts said.

Bennett says while he’s happy to give back he really feels the one walking away with the most.

“You’re never too busy to reach down and help someone up. These kids are a blessing to us. In the middle of busy routines, they are the ones teaching us what’s real important in life.”

“And helping them, there is no better feeling, no better feeling,” he said.