Power of One

A childhood surgery made Ben Sater want to help his hospital. Almost $1 million later, the teen is still on his game

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Misty Keasler for TIME

Lots of kids want to change the world when they grow up. Ben Sater just didn't feel like waiting. When he was 11, he started a charity golf tournament in Dallas. The institution he wanted to support, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, wise in the ways of fundraising and youth, told him not to worry if the event made no money.

But KidSwing brought in $20,000 on its first outing. And on June 14, when the tourney was held for the eighth time, it rustled up about $128,000, bringing KidSwing's cumulative haul to $930,000.

How does someone raise almost $1 million before his 19th birthday? It doesn't hurt that Ben and his dad, Brad, are fans of golf, the world's richest sport, or that the elder Sater works in the sales division of Nike. But even if it wasn't a huge reach, the golf, kids and charity combo has proved an irresistible and eminently replicable formula. There's already one spin-off tournament in nearby McKinney, Texas.

The golf — a nine-hole best-ball scramble — is fun, but it's not the point; the sports trophies the kids receive pale in comparison with the fundraising prizes, which run from baseball tickets to an iPad. Everyone who plays in KidSwing has to raise at least $100. Many bring in much more. One girl mustered $15,000 by soliciting everyone on her parents' Christmas-card list. Charlsie Doan, daughter of a pro golfer, has raised $53,000.

Doan is a former Scottish Rite patient. So is Sater, who at ages 2 and 10 went to the orthopedic hospital for trigger finger, a condition that can cause permanent curling of the digits. He and his parents get individual and corporate sponsors to cover the tournament's costs so that all the money the kids bring in goes to the hospital, which treats all patients free.

This is Sater's last tournament as a player — probably just as well, since his team won three of the past four years. But he intends to keep organizing KidSwing after he heads off to college. "I don't see any end to doing this," he says. Watch out, Bill Gates. Ben Sater is playing through.