On Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, the Tyler J. Horst Nonprofit Memorial Foundation will hold a bingo event from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at St. Cecilia’s Parish Center, at 750 State Drive.

The doors to the center will open at 11 a.m.

In preparation for the fundraiser, Laura Horst, mother of the late Tyler J. Horst, and Abbie Burton, his step-aunt, spoke with LebTown.

Laura Horst, who became a resident of Lebanon County when she attended Lebanon Valley College and stayed local for the past 25 years, established the foundation along with some family members after her son’s passing in January 2021.

Tyler Horst was a lifelong resident of Lebanon County. As a student at ELCO High School, he was a multi-sport athlete. After high school, he attended Bloomsburg University, where he was a member of the football team.

Tyler was a senior at Bloomsburg University, interning at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility, when he died from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. He received his bachelor’s degree posthumously as he had fulfilled all his degree requirements prior to his passing.

YouTube video
A video remembering Tyler J. Horst linked to the Tyler J. Horst Nonprofit Memorial Foundation’s website. (Provided by Laura Horst)

Burton, a Lebanon County native who moved back to the area after attending Millersville University, is one family member involved with the foundation.

“Abbie had approached me after having successful bingos and said, ‘I think this is something that we could do,'” Laura Horst recalled. “And I love any new ideas to try and get our mission out there for what we do with this foundation.”

Burton said the foundation “has always done a golf tournament every year. And we were just looking for a way to kind of reach other people besides golfers and mostly men. And we just thought that a bingo event – because who doesn’t love bingo in Lebanon County? – would be a great way to reach other people that would love to support Tyler’s foundation as well. We’re hoping for moms, grandmas, aunts, friends.”

“Our golf fundraisers are awesome,” Laura Horst said. “They’ve been very successful. We’ve been very blessed and thrilled with the support that we’ve gotten for them. And we are continuing to do another golf fundraiser in the summer.”

She clarified, “So this BINGO event is not to replace [the golf tournaments] but really it’s just to kind of add and grow the foundation, and like Abbie said, to try and reach a new group of people, because not everybody is a golfer, so it kind of limits the supporters.”

A golfer with geese at an annual tournament. (Provided by Laura Horst)

The planning process for bingo started in August.

“We also chose the weekend in January [for the bingo event] because that is the anniversary weekend of when Tyler passed away, so it’s a special time for us to remember him,” Laura Horst said.

Online registration for the event is now open. And the foundation is currently seeking sponsors for the event and prizes as well as donors for gift cards and material items.

“We hope to fill out the event. I think our number is 250 people,” Laura Horst said. “And we’re just looking forward to a time for fellowship and just to remember him and to raise money for great causes.”

Proceeds from the event will go to three causes that the foundation supports: ELCO High School, Bloomsburg University, and the Navy SEALs Foundation.

The foundation has a scholarship at ELCO High School for student-athletes. The foundation also has an endowment fund in Tyler J. Horst’s name at Bloomsburg University for members of the football team.

“The goal is for it to eventually become perpetual so that it will forever offer a scholarship to a football player who obviously exudes those same type of characteristics as Tyler,” Laura Horst said. “Tyler was a dean’s list student there and just very dedicated to athleticism when he was at Bloomsburg. So, it would go to a student that the coaches feel kind of fits that mold.”

Tyler J. Horst, number 37, pictured with Bloomsburg University’s football team. (Provided by Laura Horst)

Bloomsburg University recently opened the Tyler Horst Nutritional Center, which supplements the regular meal plans at the university for student-athletes, who have a greater need for protein, vitamins, and nutrients.

Laura Horst said the nutritional center “is an ongoing fundraising need for us because we supply funds to Bloomsburg to help keep it open.”

In addition to these initiatives, the foundation supports the Navy SEAL Foundation.

“Tyler, while he was at Bloomsburg University, began training,” Laura Horst said. “He had his eyes set on joining the Navy and becoming a Navy SEAL. And, in order to even get an opportunity to go to BUD/S, which is the training program for the Navy SEALs, you have to pass a very strenuous, specific athletic test. And so, Tyler spent his years at Bloomsburg actually training for that test that he was planning on taking upon his graduation from Bloomsburg.”

Despite the size of the Navy SEAL Foundation, which has offices on the east and west coasts, the Tyler J. Horst Nonprofit Memorial Foundation was able to make personal connections.

Laura Horst said, “Myself and Tyler’s girlfriend – who he was planning on marrying, actually, so future fiancee – she and I have actually traveled to both offices. And we have met the CFO, the CEO, and actually have become friends with a retired Navy SEAL and his wife, who also works for the Navy SEAL Foundation. So, we’ve gotten to know them on a real personal level, even though they’re such a large nonprofit.”

Their relationships with members of the Navy SEAL Foundation deepened as word spread about Tyler’s intentions to become a Navy SEAL and as the Tyler J. Horst Nonprofit Memorial Foundation sent them donations.

“That’s how that relationship kind of developed into just a personal connection that we have and that they have for Tyler now, even though they never met him,” Laura Horst said.

She added, “And I like to point out that we are literally, on a personal level, working with each foundation. With each category, whether it’s the Navy SEAL Foundation, Bloomsburg University, or ELCO, we have been blessed to be able to work with them on a personal level. Something that I didn’t know going into this [is] that we would be able to have those opportunities. But … they’ve just been all great people.”

Sarah Fischer, Tyler J. Horst’s high school sweetheart, and Laura Horst pose with a display for the Navy SEAL Foundation. (Provided by Laura Horst)

“I think that that is why we wanted to do this foundation and then we just want to keep growing it because we want to make an impact that he can no longer make … himself. We can only go with what he left us. But he left us a lot to develop,” Laura Horst said.

“And just to help people, and we’ve already helped people. I think we figure we’ve donated already over $70,000 in less than two years. So, we don’t necessarily have a goal. We just know we want to continue to grow and to keep giving back to these causes and helping others succeed through Tyler’s name and legacy.”

Abbie Burton concluded, “One thing that’s always stood out to me, he always said he wanted to change the world. And I think, Tyler is not able to do it now, because he’s not here with us. But he’s still changing the world through all of this. So, his goal is still living out of changing the world.”

The foundation has already reserved the Iron Valley Golf Course for this coming year’s golf tournament, which will be held on June 23. They plan to hold a.m. and p.m. sessions. Visit their website soon for registration details.

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Lexi Gonzalez is a reporter for LebTown. She is currently completing her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.


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