How To Help

To contribute to the Ranken Jordan junior golf program or to ask any questions please e-mail me at This blog is not affiliated with Ranken Jordan. The views expressed on this blog are those of the author and not those of Ranken Jordan. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Another Marathon for the Kids

A few days ago I completed my third marathon.  No, it was not a 26.2 mile run (that will happen in January).  Instead it was the third annual Gateway PGA Golf Day 100 hole marathon.  With this event, Gateway PGA Professionals play 100 holes of golf in one day while raising money to support local charities.  From the inception of this event it has been one of my favorites and the one event I make certain to play each year.  This year my pace of play was a bit slow as it took me about 6 1/2 hours to finish all 100 holes!  Regardless of how fast or slow I played, this is a wonderful event and one I always look forward to.  Each of the charities that benefit from the efforts of our section's PGA Professionals are special to all of us for a variety of reasons.  We tend to connect with one or two of them and make it a point to raise as much money as possible to help some of our favorite charities.

Shortly after the completion of this year's event on August 15, the funds raised will be distributed to Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, Hospice of Southern Illinois, Gateway PGA Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, Quincy Area Golf in Schools, and Kids Harbor Child Advocacy Center.  A relatively small group of PGA Professionals participating in one golf event will positively impact thousands of lives throughout large portions of Missouri and Illinois.  I am very proud to be a part of an event that creates such a tremendous amount of good for so many simply by hitting a golf ball a few times.  Want to see how PGA Professionals are improving lives through our game?  Talk to Gideon Smith, PGA, in Quincy, IL, about the number of kids he has introduced to golf through his in school program.  Or contact Paul Leahy, PGA, about the junior golf program at the Lake of the Ozarks.  Maybe you are like me and have had a family member spend the final few days of their life in hospice care.  Simply put, golf is doing great things for thousands of people in the Gateway PGA Section and this event is a big part of why that is possible.

There is one other way that I experience the impact this event has.  Through my involvement at Ranken Jordan I get to be a part of the golf program there and teach some amazing kids how to play golf regardless of the complex medical issue they are fighting.  I mentioned that one of the charities supported by PGA Golf Day is the Gateway PGA Foundation.  Through the generosity of the Foundation, the golf program at Ranken Jordan has not cost the hospital a cent.  All of the equipment has been donated by the Foundation and 100% of the PGA Professionals' time is on a volunteer basis.  This is something I am very, very proud to be able to say.  The golf program at Ranken Jordan is improving the lives of the kids, helping them heal faster, and through PGA Golf Day, we are also donating money each year to the hospital.  There is still time to donate by clicking HERE.

Playing 100 holes of golf in one day may sound like a very daunting task to some.  However I can tell you from experience that it is not as tough as you may think.  Yes I got fatigued while playing and yes I was a bit sore the next day.  Each year the fatigue and soreness is there and as I get older I am sure it will only get worse.  But each year I will proudly be a part of PGA Golf Day as we raise money for all of the great charities.  Why is this?  Because it is a very simple way for me to give back to those who made my mother's final few days as comfortable as possible and it also provides an incredible hospital with a small donation to help very special kids get their lives back.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Constant Inspiration

Golf tournaments are one of the best ways for charitable organizations to raise a significant amount of money in a relatively short period of time.  This has been true for many years and it will be true for many more.  As a PGA Professional I, just like many thousands of my peers, have the opportunity every year to host dozens of these events at our respective golf courses.  We see the hard work that the committees put into organizing a great event and do our part to make sure that the tournament is a success.

Last Monday was the 2014 Ranken Jordan golf tournament and I had the privilege of playing in the event for the third straight year.  Just as with last year's event, I had the good fortune to be part of a group that featured Ranken Jordan's CEO Lauri Tanner and former Ranken Jordan patient Sam Ward.  Each year Sam comes back to play in the tournament and each year everybody is amazed at his golf game.  Well struck drives seemed to always find the short grass and his iron shots regularly gave us a good look at birdie.  I can say with great certainty that our group was very excited that he putts as well as he does!  Golf has played a very significant role in Sam's life (learn more about Sam's story by clicking HERE to watch a short video) just as it has with another former patient, Cooper Burks, who was in the spotlight at this year's tournament.

Cooper came to Ranken Jordan for the first time in 2012.  A self-proclaimed sports nut, when he came to Ranken Jordan for therapy following one of his 17 hip surgeries, Cooper was bummed because he did not think he would be able to play sports.  Of course, when he got there he did not know about the junior golf program.  After his first day of golf Cooper was hooked!  Swinging from his wheelchair Cooper quickly showed that he was a natural!  Swing after swing led to crisp iron shots and launched drivers.  Cooper and his family quickly learned that golf was going to be his sport.

Since that initial introduction to golf Cooper's love for the sport has continued to grow.  While at Ranken Jordan we had him hitting golf balls from his hospital bed, wheelchair, using his walker, and without any aid at all.  After walking out of Ranken Jordan last December and returning home, he kept working on his game and showed off his swing on the driving range before last Monday's tournament.  Everyone who watched Cooper practice was simply amazed by how consistently he hit the ball . . . and by the fact that his ever present smile never left his face.  Ranken Jordan put together a video about Cooper which I highly encourage you to watch by clicking HERE.

Spend any time at all with Cooper and you will quickly realize that his smile never goes away.  You will also learn that he loves sports, Auburn University, and Duck Dynasty.  His incredible attitude and outlook on life make you forget that he is 10 years old.  He comes by it honestly, though.  Anyone who has the opportunity to spend time with his parents and siblings will understand what a special family Cooper is part of.

Stories like this are why I go to Ranken Jordan every week and why I treasure the time I am so fortunate to spend there with the kids.  Having the opportunity to share a game I love with the kids at Ranken Jordan and use it in a way to positively impact their lives is simply incredible.  Most of the time they think that I am teaching them something when in reality they are the ones doling out the lessons to me.  On multiple occasions, during conversations, via e-mail, or in text messages, Cooper and his family have told me "thank you" for what I have done for them.  In fact I should be the one thanking them for allowing me to be a part of his journey.  Cooper is a never-ending source of inspiration and someday, when I finally grow up, I hope to be just like him.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Get Up, Stand Up

This morning before leaving to go to Ranken Jordan for our weekly golf clinic I wrote a Tweet that said, "Every week this is my favorite day to play golf . . . Golf Day at Ranken Jordan with the kids!"  Little did I know at the time just how true that statement would be this week.  Without a doubt, each week the highlight for me is getting to spend time with the kids, teach them a few things about golf, and put a smile on their faces.  Just like at any golf course we have our regulars who refuse to miss golf and we almost always have a new kid or two.  This week was no exception as we welcomed a new girl who had never touched a golf club in her life.  That was about to change.

As we were gathering outside on an atypically cool summer day in St. Louis, one of the therapists brought out a young lady who had been recently admitted to Ranken Jordan.  She is in the early stages of her rehabilitation so she came to golf in her wheelchair.  While I talked to her I learned that she had never picked up a golf club nor had she ever given any thought to learning how to play golf.  While she watched three of the boys, two in wheelchairs and one standing, rip driver after driver she decided she would like to try.  I got the right length club for her, grabbed some golf balls, and we set to work teaching her the basics of swinging from her wheelchair.

There was some initial hesitation and after a few tentative swings she asked me for more help in hitting those first few shots.  We did hand-over-hand for a few to let her really get the feel of making a golf swing.  A few solid shots was all it took for a smile to cover her face.  I stepped back and let her start hitting by herself and away she went!  However, after only a few more swings she stopped and dropped her golf club on the ground.  I thought something may be wrong until she looked up at me and said, "I want to stand up and hit golf balls!"

We got the OK from one of the therapists and very soon there was a walker there for her to use for balance while she hit.  A couple of swings in the walker was all it took for her to realize she didn't need or want it, either!  We moved it out of the way, adjusted her grip just slightly, and the next thing you know ball after ball was being hit high, straight, and far!  The more golf balls she hit the bigger her smile became.  She even looked at me at one point and said she was glad she came out to learn how to play golf!  I am sure we will see her back next week and am quite certain the therapists will be getting the golf clubs out for her before then.

For many of the kids at Ranken Jordan, golf has become an important part of their weekly activities and lives.  It gives them something to look forward to each week.  The game has also been implemented into the rehab program for many of the kids.  While they are playing they are healing at the same time.  Seeing the role the golf program plays in the physical and mental improvements in the kids is a big part of why I go to the hospital at least once every week.  And then when something like this happens, let's just say you couldn't keep me away from there!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Good Question . . .

In the last blog post I wrote about a variety of topics, one of which was the SoloRider single passenger golf cart generously donated by the St. Louis Cardinals ushers group.  In that same blog post I included information and a link to the June 6 issue of the Ladue News that featured a cover photo and article about Ranken Jordan and the golf cart.  From that article I have received a tremendous amount of feedback and inquiries relating to the golf program at Ranken Jordan.   The best part of the feedback and questions is that it gives me the opportunity to tell people about Ranken Jordan, the incredible work they do, and the amazing kids I am so fortunate to spend time with every week.  I welcome every opportunity I get to bring awareness to the hospital, the kids, and the golf program.

During the golf season the golf clinics at Ranken Jordan are on Wednesday mornings.  Thanks to the great staff that I work with at Innsbrook Resort, I am able to spend Wednesday mornings at the hospital and go to the golf course after "golf day" is over.  Upon arriving at the golf shop this past week I was met at the door by a golfer holding a copy of the Ladue News.  He asked if I had a few minutes to talk and answer some questions which I gladly did.  Until he saw the article he had no clue about our program at Ranken Jordan.  Many of his questions were general as he simply wanted to know more about what we do and how the kids benefit from playing golf.  Then he asked a question that required a bit of thought and a much lengthier answer than his initial questions:  "When you started the program, did you have any idea the extent to which golf would become a healing tool for these kids?"

This is the type of question that I love to get and really enjoy answering.  These questions show that the person I am talking to sees the significance of the program and understands the important role golf is playing as these kids and their families continue the healing process.  They also force me to focus on the true impact the game is having on the kids and the full range of benefits that they experience because they picked up a club and gave golf a chance.  The short answer I gave to his question was "no, I had no idea."  Then I continued on and elaborated on just how golf has been a "healing tool" (I love that he picked up on this aspect and phrased it that way) for the kids.

As I began to give his question the thought and answer that it deserved I immediately thought of what one of our most dedicated junior golfers said to me that same morning.  It was a comment that absolutely made my day, but until I was asked this question when I got to work I did not fully comprehend the significance of what was said.  While helping this particular junior golfer smooth out their putting stroke we stopped for a short break and I hear this:

"Golf really helps me want to go to therapy every day because I see how I am getting stronger from playing golf.  When I get to therapy I want to work extra hard because I see how it is helping me get better at golf."

For those of you who have been regular readers of this blog you should not be surprised by a quote like this.  I have said it before, I will say it again, and I will always stand behind it:  Golf is a healing tool for these kids.  When they leave the hospital and return home many of the kids will keep playing golf in varying degrees while many will not be able to for a variety of reasons.  One thing is for certain, though, while they are part of the golf program at Ranken Jordan they are getting better faster by being involved in a sport.  One other question I am often asked is how do I find the time to go to Ranken Jordan every week for the golf program.  Comments like the one above make it very easy to make the time.  In fact, comments like this make me wish I could add hours to the day just so I could spend more time at the hospital with the kids.  The junior golfers are not the only ones benefiting from our golf program.  To paraphrase a quote from former patient and current golfer Cooper Burks, "I can't wait for Wednesday because Wednesday is golf day at Ranken Jordan!"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Kids & Their Golf Cart

Every week when you watch the PGA Tour you hear many references to the great charity work that the Tour does.  In the past few months the Tour surpassed $2 billion in charitable donations!  The impact that each tournament has on its local community is incredible.  For instance, the Valero Texas Open donates approximately $10 million annually.  Last week the tour was in Memphis for the FedEx St. Jude Classic and players like Kevin Streelman and tournament champion Ben Crane spent time at St. Jude visiting and playing with the kids.

The charitable aspect of golf is seen and felt in other ways as well.  A perfect example of this is the incredibly generous donation recently made by the St. Louis Cardinals ushers to Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.  Last fall the ushers group approached Ranken Jordan about making a significant donation and it was decided that they would donate a SoloRider single passenger golf cart!  Two weeks ago that golf cart was delivered to the hospital and the kids could not be any more excited.  In the past we have had to beg and borrow in order to make available one of these golf carts for the kids to use when we go to the golf course.  Now, thanks to the Cardinals ushers, Ranken Jordan has its very own golf cart that the kids will be able to use on a much more frequent basis!  The next time you are at Busch Stadium for a Cardinals game please say "thank you" to the ushers.  They do a lot more than what most people think and deserve to be recognized for it.  The most recent issue of Ladue News featured a photograph on the cover of a group of ushers posing with a SoloRider golf cart.  You can check out the cover photo and accompanying article HERE

The St. Louis Cardinals ushers group will not be the only local sports organization contributing to Ranken Jordan this year.  As has been done the past summers and will continue this year, the Gateway PGA will be donating to Ranken Jordan through the PGA Golf Day fund raiser.  Local PGA Professionals will play 100 holes of golf in 1 day to raise money for Ranken Jordan, Hospice of Southern Illinois, Gateway PGA Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, Kids Harbor, and Quincy Area Golf in Schools Program.  Contributing to this great initiative is simple and easy.  You may click HERE to learn more and donate.  Who knows, if you donate at least $50 you might just win an all expenses paid trip for 2 to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic!  The past 2 years the Gateway PGA has raised over $145,000 for a variety of charities and we hope to exceed our past efforts this year!

Giving through golf occurs in a wide variety of ways.  Whether it be financial contributions, volunteer time, or material items, the game gives back in a myriad of ways.  One other way is the traditional charity golf tournament.  Ranken Jordan's annual event is July 7 at Norwood Hills Country Club.  You may call 314.872.6512 or click HERE to register your team.  This year we will have a 30 minute clinic prior to play featuring some of the kids from our golf program.  You will get to see how we work with them, watch them hit golf balls on the range, and have any of your questions answered.  As I have discussed many times in this blog I encourage everybody to get involved in some way.  You can see by the examples in this post that there is ample opportunity for everyone to contribute somehow.  Through your generosity the lives of thousands of kids can and will be improved.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


"I'm addicted."  Those words typically imply a negative connotation.  Given the many meanings that can be associated with that statement it makes sense that people logically think the worst when they hear those words.  It is certainly something you usually do not want to hear when working with young people.  When and if you do hear them from the mouth of a teenager you likely hope a huge smile is not accompanying those two words.  Not long ago I had a young man tell me about his addiction, and he did so with a smile on his face.

His addiction afflicts approximately 24 million other Americans and I am included in that number of addicts.  The cause is really quite simple to understand.  In this particular case the cause of the addiction was a sunny Wednesday in May and a well struck 8 iron.  Yes, his addiction is to golf.  After he hit that solid 8 iron he looked at me and said "I'm addicted to golf.  I love playing!"  There are not many things that can make you feel better than hearing a young man in a wheelchair say something like that about an activity he likely never thought he could do.  All he needed to achieve this success was the opportunity to get a golf club in his hands and a little bit of instruction.  Seems pretty simple for such great results, right?

Presenting kids the opportunity to create possibilities, healing, and hope through the game of golf is a really special situation to be a small part of.  The longer I am involved with the golf program at Ranken Jordan the more I learn and understand the role golf plays in the lives of these amazing kids.  No longer are they only playing golf during our clinics (and special trips to the golf course).  Almost every week when I get there I hear about the 2 or 3 times during the week that the kids had to get the golf clubs out so they could practice.  This junior golf program is allowing them to be involved and included in sports.  And through that inclusion, the game of golf is being used to help them heal and get their lives back.

Normally when people of any age enter a hospital it is to get better and not to get addicted to anything.  This addiction is a special situation and one that is encouraged at Ranken Jordan!  Kids heal best through play.  Anyone who visits Ranken Jordan or spends any time there will see that first-hand.  I am thrilled that golf has become something that the kids look forward to doing and enjoy so much . . . and I am happy to feed their addiction!  As I wrote about in the last blog post we have eclipsed the 3 year mark for our program.  During that time we have created many golf addicts and hope to create many more in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Three Years Is Just the Beginning

May 10, 2014 came and went with little or no fanfare.  For many it was just another Saturday.  Some folks may have seen it as the 3rd round of The PLAYERS Championship, the week in between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, or the day before Mother's Day.  At Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital May 10 is a bit of a special day as that is the anniversary date of the first golf clinic we held for the kids.  This year marks three years since the inception of the program.  It is a day that will always hold an important place not only for me but also for Janine Roe, CTRS, Community Programs Director at Ranken Jordan.

During the three years we have had over 150 junior golf clinics and positively impacted in excess of 2,000 children.  For many junior golf programs these numbers are not significant at all.  But no other junior golf program in the country is held 52 weeks a year at a pediatric hospital like Ranken Jordan.  At least one day a week every week of the year visitors to the hospital hear that sweet click of a well struck golf shot or bend over to retrieve a runaway golf ball.  They hear laughter from the kids and see smiles on their faces that could light up the darkest of rooms.  They see kids having fun and getting better at the same time.

Looking back over our first three years we have been fortunate to witness many amazing accomplishments.  As Janine readily tells anyone who will listen, "I've seen a lot of miracles through our golf program."  Many of these instances can be found in multiple blog posts that I have written.  There have been teenagers taking the first steps of their lives, standing for the first time, or progressing from the hospital bed to a wheelchair to ambulatory.  Each week there is something new happening that shows the significant role the game of golf is playing in the recovery of these children.  But the one thing I look forward to the most every week is seeing the kids smile.  It is an incredibly simple goal yet a very important one at the same time.

Creating a bright spot each week for these kids is something I am very proud of and look forward to.  Very often golf is included in their therapy program so the kids are getting to play while they are getting better.  Other times golf is used as a reward for completing therapy.  Whatever the situation the kids look forward to golf and can't wait for the next clinic.  Seeing a smile on the face of the kids or having one of them say "thank you" is an indescribable feeling.  There have been mothers crying tears of joy as they watch their child hit shot after shot, a feat they never dreamed imaginable.  Other parents have referred to the golf program as "magic" and "a dream come true."

Everyone who has been a part of the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan sees the good it is doing for the kids.  I have said it before and I will say it again, golf is a healing tool.  Over the three years of our program we have seen kids healing through golf and we are just getting started on this journey.  Many new and exciting adventures are on the horizon for our junior golf program.  Thanks to the generosity of the St. Louis Cardinals ushers and the single passenger golf cart they have donated, the kids will be able to get on the golf course more often this summer!  The program will continue to grow and evolve as we find more ways to help the kids through golf.  I am grateful beyond words at having been allowed the opportunity to bring golf to the kids at Ranken Jordan.  These first three years have been life-changing for me and I am ready for many, many more years.