How To Help

To contribute to the Ranken Jordan junior golf program or to ask any questions please e-mail me at kcornpga@gmail.com. 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, May 10, 2017

6

In the city of St. Louis the number "6" is a very well known and important number.  Most people in the metropolitan St. Louis area know why that is.  They know that it represents class, dignity, respect, humility, sincerity, and too many more positive traits to list.  The number six also represents "baseball's perfect warrior [and] baseball's perfect knight."  Six is the number that Stan Musial wore throughout his 22 year career with the St. Louis Cardinals.  There are few players in the history of Major League Baseball who were better or more respected players than Mr. Musial.  Around St. Louis he is still revered, even more than four years since his passing.



For one day, however, the number six will have an additional important meaning to me.  It will mean more than the pitcher turned outfielder turned first baseman who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.  On May 10, 2017, the number six will represent the number of years since our first junior golf clinic at Ranken Jordan.  Think about that for a minute.  Six years equates to 312 weeks of golf clinics for the medically complex children at this unique, miraculous pediatric bridge hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.  Many of those weeks have included more than one clinic or has seen the kids asking therapists to get the golf clubs out at other times.


The children come to golf in hospital beds, wheelchairs, using walkers and gait belts, requiring ventilators, and many other "training aids" that will not slow them down.  Many of the kids that have enjoyed learning how to play golf have always been told they could never do it.  However one look at the smiling faces and hearing the laughter will tell you they do not believe that!  There are hundreds of stories I could tell about the kids learning how to play golf and utilizing it as a healing tool.  But the things that I always like to share the most are the smiles, laughter, and looks of pure joy as they hit that first solid shot.


While it is true that I initially approached Janine Roe at Ranken Jordan with a crazy idea and no clue of how to make it work, a program like this would not have a chance of being successful without the help and support of many people.  If I began naming names I would undoubtedly exclude someone -- to anyone who has helped at a clinic, volunteered, donated, encouraged, shared pictures or blog posts with their friends, etc., THANK YOU!.  However I do want to tell everyone what amazing people Janine Roe and Lauri Tanner are.  It is an honor to be able to call them friends and work with them.  Ranken Jordan is fortunate to have both of these incredible ladies and they are fortunate to have Ranken Jordan.  To Janine and Lauri -- thank you is not enough but I hope you both know how special I think you are.  Oh, one more thing, I am going to keep coming until y'all tell security not to let me in anymore!


Then there are the kids.  As I sit here typing this I find myself struggling more than usual to find the words to describe how incredible the children are.  Each and every one of them has made a life-long impression on me and all of them provide daily inspiration.  As those around me have heard countless times, there simply is no greater feeling than putting smiles on the faces of the children at Ranken Jordan.  Every day when I walk out the doors and to my car, I leave with the knowledge that I got far more from the clinic than I could possibly give to the kids.  The first six years have provided far greater success than any of us could have ever imagined.  Here's to six more years of "considering the children first in all we do."

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Changing Attitudes

Me:  "You had never picked up a golf club before coming to Ranken Jordan, correct?

Junior Golfer:  "No, I had never played golf."

Me:  "So what do you think of it?"

Junior Golfer:  "This is fun!  I love playing golf and look forward to Wednesdays.  I even ask to get the clubs out on other days so I can practice."


Me:  "Well you are doing a great job.  I think I am going to have to get lessons from you so you can teach me how to hit it as straight as you do!"

Junior Golfer:  "I am ready to get started today.  Hopefully I can keep playing when I go home."

 



The four or five of you who regularly read this blog know that I have a tendency to start posts off with quotes from or conversations with the junior golfers we have at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital in St. Louis, MO.  I like to share what the kids say and think about the junior golf program because more often than not they say it far better than I can!  The conversation starting this post occurred recently as we were getting ready to start our weekly junior golf clinic.  After almost six years of junior golf clinics, hearing comments like these is not uncommon.  However every time we hear it, the feeling is just as special as the first time.



In this particular instance, the junior golfer who let us know how much fun they were having playing golf, was quiet, shy, and reserved when they first started playing.  For the first couple of weeks, when the therapist would bring our new junior golfer to the "driving range" at Ranken Jordan, we would notice eyes that were looking down and ever present headphones that kept conversation from being easy.  But as we have seen in the past, after a few shots went flying into the target net, and maybe even a couple bouncing off the windows, the eyes started looking up, the headphones were taken off, and the smiles started arriving.  To steal from Jimmy Buffett, we did not change latitude, but golf changes attitudes!


These are the type of success stories that we like to see and share.  Yes, we are always excited to hear the kids say they are going to continue to play golf when they go home.  However the important part of the junior golf program is seeing the physical, mental, emotional, and social improvements in the kids.  This is what is possible when children are given an opportunity to learn and do something they likely have never had the chance to do previously.  It does not always have to be golf.  Golf is simply what I know and how I can provide that opportunity to them.  I have said it a million times before and I will continue to say it:  I am forever grateful to be able to spend the time I do with the kids and always look forward to "Golfday."

Monday, March 13, 2017

Arnie Would

"Making a positive change in the life of a child is one of the most significant things you can do." --Arnold Palmer

Year in and year out my favorite week is Masters Week.  During that week I watch "Live From the Masters" every morning on the Golf Channel.  When the tournament starts I will watch the regular broadcast, then watch the replay, and after that I will watch it again since I DVR all 4 rounds.  I love the Masters and Augusta National.  However this year I think this particular week carries more importance --- this week is the first Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill since Mr. Palmer's passing last September.  When I see the quote that is at the top of this post I cannot help but think that Mr. Palmer and Mrs. Mary Ranken Jordan would have had some wonderful conversations!


On a fairly regular basis I am asked why I started the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan.  The simple, and most accurate answer, is that starting it was simply the right thing to do.  I wanted to provide an opportunity for the kids at Ranken Jordan to simply be kids, to laugh, to smile, and to get better while learning to play the game of a lifetime.  It allows them to have an activity they can take home with them and enjoy with their siblings, parents, grandparents, and friends.  Golf provides the kids at Ranken Jordan with a fun way to heal physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially.  The game has provided far more benefits than I could have ever dreamed . . . and it has done the same for the kids!


In the past few days this question was once again asked and with the arrival of this week it started me thinking (which is difficult for me to do at times).  The influences that steered me to even considering starting a junior golf program like this were significant reasons as to why I started it.  During more than three decades in education and coaching multiple high school sports, my parents had a significant impact in the lives of thousands of kids.  Growing up watching their tireless efforts certainly led me towards Ranken Jordan.  Hopefully my mother looks down every Wednesday and has a huge smile on her face.  Earlier today, when I saw a new MasterCard commercial, it suddenly dawned on me (I told you thinking could be challenging for me) that someone I have always admired, respected, and looked up to, also pointed me towards 11365 Dorsett Road.  Those who watch the golf tournament this week will surely see the commercial and hear, "Arnie would."


Throughout this week there will undoubtedly be stories and memories about the far-reaching impact that Mr. Palmer has had in golf and the world in general.  From William McGirt's story about why he signs his autograph legibly to the amazing work being done at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, stories about Mr. Palmer will be in abundance.  He gave so much to the game and through the game was able to give so much to others.  I still remember the impact he made on a 10 year old who asked him for an autograph when he put his arm around that kid's shoulders and took him onto the practice putting green at the Players Championship.  While you watch the golf tournament this week, remember Mr. Palmer and all the great things he stood for.  While we can't play golf like him, we can all strive to be more like him.  Find a way you can make a positive change in the life of a child and give them a thumbs up.  Arnie would.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Oh What A Night(s)!

Talk about time flying!  It seems like only a few days ago that I clicked "publish" on my last blog post and yet it was before Christmas!  Between a vacation, the Ranken Jordan Gala, and the PGA Show, January just disappeared.  However it is great to be busy and I would not change the past few weeks for anything.  Sandwiched in between the vacation and the PGA Show was the annual Ranken Jordan Gala.  As always, it was an incredibly uplifting, inspirational, and emotionally moving night.

With May Reynoso at the Ranken Jordan Gala


Each year I look forward to the Gala more than any other night of the year.  When the event starts I know at some point during speeches from Ranken Jordan President & CEO Lauri Tanner and Chief Medical Officer Nick Holekamp that I will be afflicted with sweaty eyes.  This year proved no different.  However the highlight for me of this year's Gala was being fortunate enough to be at the same table with 2 former patients and their families.  Both former patients had been regulars at our weekly junior golf clinics even though they had never touched a club before coming to Ranken Jordan.  One of the girls, May Reynoso, stopped me on the day she was discharged to go home to tell me that learning to play golf was her favorite part of being at Ranken Jordan.  I always look forward to seeing the videos that are put together specifically for the Gala (even though the sweaty eyes affliction promises strikes again during the videos).  This year separate videos were shown about the 2 amazing young ladies I was sitting with.  Please take a few moments to watch them here:



A few short days after the Ranken Jordan Gala I was once again on a plane heading back to Orlando for the PGA Show.  This year at the Show there were approximately 40,000 attendees and over 1,000 exhibitors.  To say it is a huge production is an understatement!  Typically at the PGA Show buying for the golf shop is finished for the year, old connections are re-established, new connections are made, and everybody's feet hurt from all the walking!  However this year included a very special, meaningful, and humbling night.  Every year at the PGA Show U.S. Kids Golf recognizes their Top 50 Kids Coaches.  On rare occasions, 2 times in their 20 year history, they present an additional award --- their Founder's Award.  This year marked the 3rd time they presented it and they chose to recognize me for the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan.  To say I was shocked when I received the phone call would be a gross understatement!  I could never adequately express the feelings I had, and still have, that night as Dan Van Horn, founder of U.S. Kids Golf, made the presentation.  I am eternally grateful to Dan, John Bryan, and the entire U.S. Kids Golf company for their support of the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan.




Having the opportunity to celebrate and share what a special place Ranken Jordan is will always be something I am excited to do.  When that can occur at special events like the annual Gala and the U.S. Kids Top 50 Kids Coaches awards presentation makes even more meaningful.  The response to the Founder's Award has been both heartwarming and overwhelming.  I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about Ranken Jordan to visit their website HERE.  Next year at this time I will be writing about the completion of the expansion to double their capacity to help more kids & more families with more healing & more hope!
Spent a few minutes at the PGA Show talking to Scotty Cameron about designing putters to be used from hospital beds & wheelchairs

Friday, December 23, 2016

Talking To Santa

A couple of weeks ago my dad and I took my six year old son to see Santa Claus.  During the drive over, we asked him what he was going to tell Santa he wanted.  Carson was not sure what he was going to ask for but we were certain he would think of something (and my money was on Legos).  Sure enough, when it was his turn to talk to Santa, Carson asked for some Legos.  After seeing him, several people asked my son the question all of us hear at this time of year:  "What do you want for Christmas?"  Eventually Carson turned to me and asked what I wanted for Christmas.  The short answer was to spend the day with him.  However on our drive there was time to tell him the long answer and explain to him the meaning behind the answer.


Not long before going to see Santa Claus with my son I was sitting at Ranken Jordan having a meeting with Janine Roe, Community Program Director, while a patient and his sister were having lunch at the table next to us.  Once Tommy and his sister got settled at their table, Janine and I quickly put our meeting on the back burner and we talked to them about Tommy's time at Ranken Jordan.  Shortly into the conversation he told us he was going home that afternoon!  We were thrilled to hear that one of our regular golfers would be getting to go home just in time for the holidays to be with his family.


Anyone who has spent much time at Ranken Jordan will quickly learn to recognize what many people consider "little" accomplishments as something far greater.  In fact, I consider many of these things nothing short of miraculous.  Earlier this year Tommy was involved in a terrible car accident and suffered many injuries including a traumatic brain injury.  A month in ICU and several months of rehabilitation, hard work, determination, and dedication, got him to the point that he was ready to go home (to learn more about Tommy's story please click HERE).  As I mentioned earlier, while the 4 of us were talking, Tommy and his sister were eating lunch.  There came a point in the conversation where Tommy asked a question and I found I was speechless (those who know me best look forward to the times where I have no words).  I had to ask him to repeat his question as I was in awe and shock of what I had just watched him do.  While we were talking, Tommy picked up his fork to feed himself!


Most of us do not think twice about picking up a fork or spoon when we are having a meal.  For Tommy to be able to do that was a major achievement!  While Tommy was at Ranken Jordan for his therapy and rehabilitation, we could always count on him being ready for his tee time every Wednesday afternoon.  During his first few weeks we had to open his hand to put the golf club in it and then swing for him.  By the end of his time at Ranken Jordan, Tommy was opening his hand and swinging the club himself!  Watching his improvement on the lesson tee week after week was incredibly inspirational.  However when I watched him pick up his fork and feed himself it put an exclamation point on just how far he had come in his recovery!


After I finished telling my son about Tommy he once again asked me what else I wanted for Christmas.  To finish the long answer to Carson I told him I wanted to see more stories like Tommy's.  I want more kids in pediatric hospitals around the country to be able to learn how to play golf, participate in other games and activities, and just be kids while they get better and go home to their families.  After all, we are doing it at Ranken Jordan; there is no reason why it can not be done in hundreds of other hospitals.

Friday, November 25, 2016

FUN in the Hospital!

Recently I logged into my e-mail account and found a new monthly newsletter for Titleist golf club fitters.  While reading through it I started thinking about some of the different factors we look at when fitting golfers for new clubs.  For instance, to maximize distance with the driver, golfers want to optimize their launch angle and spin rate.  This may sound like Greek to some of you, but boiled down it simply means to hit the ball on the best trajectory with the ideal amount of backspin to carry the golf ball the farthest distance in the air.  Hopefully whatever that maximum distance is finishes up in the fairway!  Golfers are always looking for ways to hit the ball farther and straighter and getting the optimum results on these two numbers can do both for a player.  However, as we saw a few weeks ago at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, optimizing launch angle can also lead to a lot of fun!


Anyone who was around for one of our recent clinics would have noticed it was not exactly a typical day of golf.  When the kids came to Warner's Corner they saw blank canvases lined up in front of a LOT of plastic which covering as much as possible.  The reason for all of this is that the annual Inspiration Gallery was just around the corner and the kids were creating artwork to be sold at a local gallery.  Naturally the therapists came up with a great idea and decided we needed to let the kids create artwork during golf!  As the golf balls were covered in paint the kids grabbed their golf clubs and started "painting."  Our normal golf clinics last about an hour but the kids were having so much fun with this one that we did not start cleaning up for well over two hours!  While spending time with each of our junior golfers that day I was thinking a lot about club fitting and changing the launch angle for each kid.


Usually when we look at changing the launch angle for the kids it is for the normal reason of improving the distance they hit the golf ball.  However on this particular day the reason was completely different.  Changing the launch angle meant the ball would hit a canvas in a different way and make a bigger splatter of paint!  If you think hitting a golf ball high and far will put a smile on the face of a child, wait until you see that smile after they hit a golf ball and paint goes everywhere!  During any of the club fitting seminars I have attended I never thought I would put what I learned to use by figuring out how to launch the golf ball to make the biggest splatter of paint possible.  However I am sure that each of the instructors of those seminars would be happy to know that the knowledge they shared was being put to use in this exciting way.


Those of you who have been regular readers of this blog (and that number is very small) will notice something with this post that is similar to almost all of the others.  What we do with the kids at Ranken Jordan revolves around them having fun.  Golf is just a way that we can do that.  I am fortunate that I am allowed to spend as much time as I do with the kids at Ranken Jordan sharing the great game of golf with them.  To see the smiles on their faces that are created by using a funny looking stick to hit a ball is an indescribable feeling.  My Mother's favorite song was "Thank God For Kids" by the Oak Ridge Boys.  Every week for over 5 1/2 years, as I walk out to my car after golf recalling the smiles, I think of the chorus from that song:

Thank God for kids, there's magic for a while
A special kind of sunshine in a smile.
Do you ever stop to think or wonder why
The nearest thing to Heaven is a child?


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Progress!

Every day at golf facilities around the world people go to the driving range to hit golf balls.  They go for many different reasons, to get better, unwind after a day at work, exercise, or just spend time with friends and family.  While at the driving range, people get their bucket of golf balls, find a spot to hit, dump out their golf balls, tee one up, and start hitting.  All that seems pretty standard, right?  It should and it is.  However that is not always how things work at a driving range.

During a recent clinic at Ranken Jordan I watched two different junior golfers prove beyond a doubt that golf truly is for everyone.  The first junior golfer, who was hitting golf balls for the first time, began hitting from her wheelchair.  It did not take long before she asked her therapist if she could stand up to hit.  Since one of the things she was working on in therapy was her balance it was a perfect opportunity to get in even more therapy.  Typically someone will tee up each golf ball for our junior golfers but that was not the case in this situation.  While I was watching her therapist asked her to start teeing up the golf balls.  I learned they were also working on her fine motor skills so she had to pick up and tee up her next three golf balls with her left hand which was followed by three with her right hand.  She went back and forth like this for almost an hour.  How often when you are at the driving range are you focused on which hand you are using to pick up and tee up your golf balls and how wide your feet are for optimal balance?


The second junior golfer I mentioned has been one of our regulars for the last few weeks.  When Tommy started coming to golf he was very excited to learn how to play but was unable to open his hand without assistance in order to trip the club.  We worked with him to get his grip and as soon as he hit that first solid drive he was hooked!  Week after week Tommy has been coming for golf with a smile on his face.  At our most recent clinic I was the one with the huge smile on my face.  When Tommy got there, he reached out his hand, opened it, and said he was ready for golf!  I get excited when I see the kids improving in golf; I am speechless when I see progress like this!


In September I had the honor and pleasure of being part of a panel making a presentation at the 5th annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium hosted by the NCAA in Indianapolis, IN.  During that presentation on dis/Ability in Sports, a question was asked about how we can expand accessibility in sports to all people regardless of ability level.  While answering that question I commented that at times we have to be more proactive and take the game to people and places that have historically been overlooked.  Stories like these are prime examples of why that is.  As mentioned earlier in this post, golf is a game for everyone.  People everywhere, regardless of ability, can play the game and should have the opportunity to play.  Sometimes it just takes different thinking to match the different abilities to begin the process of creating smiles.

Honored to present at the 5th annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium with Nicole Roundy, Yvette Pegues, Dr. Ted Fay, & Steve Jubb