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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Few More Stories

Most of the time when I sit down to write a blog post I try to come up with something different to talk about or at least discuss a topic that I haven't mentioned in a while.  This one, however, is not going to be like that.  Our golf clinic this morning at Ranken Jordan - A Pediatric Specialty Hospital in St. Louis, MO, was so incredible that I decided to do nothing more than talk about it in this post.  Even after 125 or so golf clinics there are still days like today that leave me totally amazed and defy description.

For those of you not in the St. Louis area this morning wasn't exactly ideal for golf.  Temperatures were in the low 60's and we had a steady rain all morning long.  Yes, many folks would pull on rain gear and tee it up regardless.  But those people don't have medical equipment that has to go with them everywhere and be plugged in to an electrical outlet.  Weather conditions like these show one of the reasons why Ranken Jordan is such a special facility.  Just because it is raining doesn't mean the kids will not be able to play golf.  We simply set up in either Warner's Corner or the gym and they play away!  Rain, snow, sleet, too cold, too hot . . . none of it prevents the kids from getting their golf in.  Not allowing the rainy weather to put a damper on spirits is only one reason why today was such a great day.  Three of the kids who played today left me in awe.

Warner's Corner indoor playground area at Ranken Jordan
The first junior golfer I have talked about many times in the past.  She is always one of the first ones to get to the tee, but today she was absent.  When we went to look for her we found her sitting by a window looking out at the dreary weather.  As soon as I knelt down next to her and asked if she wanted to play golf that big smile that we all know so well spread across her face.  The young lady who not too long ago could not swing the club by herself or play for more than a few minutes without needing to rest was on her way to the gym.  For the next hour she hit putt after putt, chipped a few balls into the net she was using as a target, and sent several shots sailing across the room with her sweet swing.  The entire time the smile never left her face.  I have watched first-hand her improvement as a golfer but most importantly her recovery and physical improvements.  Knowing that golf has played a role in improving her rehabilitation is a constant reminder to me that we are doing good things for the kids in our golf program.

Last week we had two new golfers join us.  The first of those arrived in a wheelchair and wearing a brace around his torso that would prevent him from making a full backswing.  Neither of those things stopped him from grabbing a driver and ripping drives that any seasoned player would be happy with.  Did I mention that was his first time picking up a golf club?  This week he was back and ready for more.  The only difference between last week and today was that he walked in rather than coming in his wheelchair.  During his time hitting balls he needed to take a couple of breaks, but those did not last long as he was anxious to keep working on the small change we made to his takeaway.  One small adjustment was all it took to have him sending shots soaring across the gym and banging off the wall.  Not only was I amazed to see the quality of shots he was hitting but to do so standing up was simply incredible!

Our other new golfer last week came to us in his hospital bed.  He was laying on his stomach but wanted to hit some golf balls.  Naturally we brought him over to an astroturf mat and hat him going before he knew it.  Of course his swing was limited in length but he made up for it in desire.  He constantly asked questions and only wanted to take short rests.  This week was no different.  After spending most of his time last week with the full swing he told us he wanted to learn how to putt this week.  I told him I would also like to learn how to putt but I would have him making putts in no time.  We spent most of our time working from about 6 feet and it was not long before he was routinely making 3 or 4 putts in a row!  Was I impressed, shocked, or in awe?  All of the above.  The great volunteers we have helping on a regular basis also felt the same way.

Days like today make it very easy to go back every week and work with the kids.  They enjoy it, the staff & volunteers enjoy it, and I enjoy it.  Most importantly the kids are having fun and getting better at the same time.  Many of these kids have been told they can't do something when they ask to get involved.  At Ranken Jordan that does not happen.  Our golf program follows in those same footsteps.  Any and every kid who wants to be a part of the program and learn how to play golf is welcomed with open arms.  Seeing their excitement and enthusiasm from week to week greatly contributes to the success of the junior golf program.  But the true definition of success comes from seeing the physical, mental, and emotional improvement in each of the kids as they learn the game of a lifetime.

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