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!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Improving Lives With Golf

The game of golf gives back in a myriad of ways.  For individuals it can be a relaxation tool, healing tool, or something to satisfy their competitive drive.  Companies use the game to reward employees through tournaments (usually equates to a paid day off) or providing golf trips as incentives.  One of the most visible ways golf gives back is through charitable contributions.  These contributions come from a wide variety of angles.  Some charities use golf as a way to raise money through fundraising tournaments and the accompanying auctions.  Other charities are focused on golf and what it can do for those involved with the game.  A perfect example of this is PGA Professional Jim Estes and his Salute Military Golf Association (https://www.smga.org/).


At Ranken Jordan the golf program is used multiple ways.  As I regularly discuss on this blog it is obviously a healing tool for the kids.  Whether the game is incorporated into their actual therapy, it is a reward for completing their therapy or schoolwork, or it is simply a fun diversion for the kids while they're at the hospital, the game helps them get better.  Golf is also used to help raise awareness of the hospital and the incredible work done there.  What better way to illustrate their "care beyond the bedside" model than to talk about and show pictures of the kids playing golf?!?!



Yesterday on SiriusXM PGA Tour radio, Will Haskett (http://willhaskett.com/) focused 2 hours of his show on giving through golf.  During his show he was kind enough to mention the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.  Stealing Will's idea, I want to highlight a few different charities or events that use golf to do incredible work.

Folds of Honor Foundation (https://www.foldsofhonor.org/):  When you stand together with Major Dan Rooney, Major Ed Pulido, and the entire Folds of Honor Family, you help provide scholarships and assistance to the spouses and children of those killed or disabled in service to America.

PGA REACH (http://www.gatewaypga.org/pgareach):  Founded locally by the Gateway PGA Foundation, the PGA of America, and the St. Louis golf community, PGA REACH secures, supports, and extends the reach of proven local organizations which offer focused activities to youth in the St. Louis area.

Brian Gay Invitational (http://briangayinvitational.org/):  The Brian Gay Invitational presented by Diamond Resorts International® is a best in class celebrity/amateur golf tournament that returned to Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Club in Celebration, Florida on December 12-14, 2014.  Last Year $410,000 was raised for The Walt Disney Pavilion at the Florida Hospital for Children (FHFC) in Orlando, Florida to support the hospital in its vital life-saving mission.

Birdies for the Brave (http://birdiesforthebrave.org/):  Birdies for the Brave was originally created in 2006 by PGA TOUR player, Phil Mickelson, and his wife, Amy, to support combat-wounded veterans.  The PGA TOUR subsequently adopted the program, and expanded it to include a wide variety of military outreach and appreciation activities during PGA TOUR events, as well as a seriers of fundraising events conducted at the PGA TOUR’s Tournament Players Clubs (TPCs) and partner courses across the nation – an effort that has raised more than $11 million for non-profit military homefront groups that are supported by PGA TOUR players, which provide direct support to military members, veterans, and their families ranging from financial aid, rehabilitation services, counseling and housing to educational scholarships and career development.

Hi5 Sports (http://www.hi5sports.org/):   Hi5 Sports is based in Clifton Park N.Y. and provides an environment which allows people with special needs to build self-esteem, confidence, and friendships through sports by providing opportunities to socialize, compete, and exercise both their motor and life skills.

The First Tee (http://www.thefirsttee.org/Club/Scripts/Home/home.asp):   The First Tee is an international youth development organization introducing the game of golf and its inherent values to young people. Through after school and in school programs, they help shape the lives of young people from all walks of life by reinforcing values like integrity, respect and perseverance through the game of golf. 


Obviously these charities are a very small sampling of ways golf can and does give back.  The PGA Tour alone has raised in excess of $2 billion for charity.  Chances are any charity or cause that is close to your heart has been helped in some way by the game of golf.  When I repeatedly say in various posts on this blog that golf improves lives and is a healing tool, these charities are prime examples of that.  The game heals in many ways and touches lives in ways that many would not suspect.  As you are making your New Year's resolutions why not include one that has you getting more involved with a charitable golf tournament or event.  After all, there are worse ways to spend a day than at a golf course enjoying the sunshine and helping others at the same time!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Skipping the Mall

It is that time of year again when everybody starts rushing around frantically trying to find the perfect present for each person on their holiday shopping list.  Go anywhere near a shopping mall and you are certain to hear the joyous sounds of the season:  car horns blaring, tires screeching, and the angry yelling of words not suitable for this blog.  Occasionally you will see a different response when someone steals a parking spot or takes the last hot item off the shelf as a shopper will offer a one-finger salute to the other shopper proving just how much they care about the other person.  Every year many people promise themselves that they will avoid these situations, not deal with the crowds the following year, and will get their shopping done early.  the next thing they know Thanksgiving is here and they have yet to begin even thinking about who will get what gift.


Even though my mind is constantly in motion trying to come up with ways to improve the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan, it really kicks into another gear (no comments from the peanut gallery, please) during the holiday season.  Given that the average length of stay at Ranken Jordan is approximately 42 days we have our "regular" junior golfers who always make it for golf every Wednesday morning.  During the winter months we have even added an additional day each week and these "regulars" happily make it to the lesson tee on Saturday mornings as well.  In spending time with the kids on multiple days every week it becomes very clear that many of the kids would like to continue playing golf when the leave the hospital and go home.  Through our golf program they have been introduced to and shown a sport that they can play and enjoy while at the same time benefit therapeutically.  The question becomes how do we make it possible for the kids to keep playing golf when they go home?


One thing that golf professionals are good at doing is networking amongst our peers.  Our advice is constantly sought from members or regular players about where they should go on their next golf trip or what would be a good course to play on a business trip.  It always helps when we can pick up the phone and call a fellow PGA Professional and make planning a bit easier for the golfer asking our advice.  This is also a way that I keep our junior golfers playing when they leave the hospital.  Those who are interested in continuing to develop their games are put in touch with a local PGA Professional who will gladly provide instruction and help the junior golfer to the best of their ability.  However we also have some kids who will have great difficulty getting to a local golf course to continue playing.  How do we keep a club in their hands and a smile on their face after they go home?  Many of the kids will go home with a putter, indoor putting green, and golf balls, so they can at least work on their putting stroke anytime they want to.  During this holiday season do you want to give a gift that is guaranteed to not be returned and accepted with an ear-to-ear smile?  It can certainly happen.  Use the e-mail address at the top of the page to contact me and I will tell you how you can do just that.


While I am always grateful beyond words to be able to teach golf to the kids at Ranken Jordan on a weekly basis, it becomes even more special at this time of year.  Having the opportunity to put a smile on their face during the holiday season is a very special feeling.  Throughout the year I will occasionally get e-mails or text messages from our junior golfers after they go home saying "thank you" or letting me know how they are doing with golf.  Oftentimes as I read their words or watch the thank you video that has been texted to me I have to close the door to my office until the tears dry up.  It is truly amazing what can be done with a stick, a ball, and a cup.  As I mentioned above, should you want to learn more about how you can help provide so much happiness to our junior golfers, e-mail me at kcornpga@gmail.com.  Trust me when I tell you there is no greater feeling than helping a child achieve that level of pure joy that we see so often in our junior golf program.  To quote my late mother's favorite song, "Thank God for Kids."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Forget the Wheelchair

People everywhere have a tendency to consistently revisit those things that bring joy to their life and a smile to their face.  Anyone who gets in the car with me knows this to be true when it comes to music and I would much rather listen to Jimmy Buffett or Styx instead of current music.  As for movies oftentimes people would prefer watching something they've seen in the past that they know to be a great movie (Caddyshack, Major League, Rocky, Cannonball Run, Shawshank Redemption, etc.) rather than take a chance on a current release not living up to the hype.  Anytime I turn on the TV I am either watching sports or looking for reruns of M*A*S*H or Mork & Mindy.




And so it goes at times with this blog.  I readily admit that I have a great tendency to tell similar stories or revisit similar topics on a regular basis.  But you know what, telling similar stories involving different kids at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital never gets old and always brings a smile to my face.  This past week during our regular golf clinic we had another one of those situations that I will talk about on a regular basis.  Whenever I am speaking to a group and telling these stories I typically wind up with sweaty eyes.  During our most recent clinic we had a great turnout of 8 kids.  One of our junior golfers was participating in her second clinic . . . and swinging a golf club for only the second time in her life.  Considering the week prior was her first time picking up a golf club I was blown away watching her hit driver after driver dead straight.  She kept trying to find just the right angle to lean in her wheelchair so she could get the best launch on her tee shots.  But as impressed as I was with her consistency with her tee shots, I had no idea that it was about to get even better.

As this young lady kept swinging away I would occasionally ask her if she needed a break, as we do with all of the kids.  Whether in a hospital or not, it does not do any golfer any good to keep hitting once fatigue has set in.  Everybody needs an occasional break so we always make sure to ask regularly if the kids need to get a drink and relax for a minute.  Her response the next time I asked grabbed my attention and is why I like telling these stories as often as possible.  She looked first at her mom and then at her therapist and said, "I want to stand up to hit golf balls."  Considering that is part of her actual therapy program her therapist was all for it.  Just a few minutes later we had changed drivers, going to a longer one to accommodate her standing versus in the wheelchair, and she went right back to hitting the driver dead straight off the windows!  All I could do was smile and keep teeing up golf balls for her as I was absolutely speechless.


Spending time with the kids every week at Ranken Jordan is a very important part of my life and something I look forward to each week.  When something like this happens it underscores how important golf can be in the lives of the kids there.  This past week we had several new golfers, kids who likely never dreamed of swinging a golf club, and all of them were hitting golf balls and smiling.  Then we see this young lady go from her wheelchair to standing while hitting golf balls and it adds an exclamation point to what has already been a great day.  One of my constant mantras that I repeat over and over is "golf is improving the lives of these kids" and this is another prime example of that happening.  Hearing this young lady ask for help to get out of her wheelchair and then stand to hit golf balls is another poignant reminder of why I  feel so very fortunate to have the opportunity to spend so much time at Ranken Jordan.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Venturing Back Outside the Box

A quick Google search on the overall health of the game and industry of golf would make you believe that golf is on the verge of the same fate the dinosaurs saw.  Plenty of articles document that people do not have the time to play a round of golf, that golf is too expensive, or it is just not cool enough for kids to want to learn how to play.  Other articles discuss the declining sales in equipment or mention how the poor play and injuries of Tiger Woods are killing TV ratings.  Still other articles talk about how stock for publicly traded golf companies is being shorted at a much higher rate than just a few months ago.  Rather than hold forecasters and buyers accountable, Edward Stack, CEO of a major sporting goods chain (I refuse to mention their name) elected to fire more than 500 PGA Professionals because declining golf sales had not been anticipated and his company saw significant losses in their golf division.  No matter where you look it seems that Forbes, Time, Money, CNBC, and others have all but written off the game of golf.


Even with all the supporting documentation out there about the decline in golf I tend to disagree with a vast majority of it.  What many of the articles fail to address is the fact that during the golf boom of the mid to late 1990s most markets were overbuilt creating crazy golf hole per capita ratios.  It seems that what is happening now is more of a market correction.  That is not to say that golf is not on a decline but I do not believe it is as desperate of a situation as many "experts" make it out to be.  I can only speak specifically for the one golf course I work at, but this year our total rounds, revenue, and merchandise sales all increased significantly over the previous 5 years.  All of this leads into one of the major focal points of next week's PGA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.

New PGA President Derek Sprague, PGA, offering swing advice at Ranken Jordan


At that annual meeting there will be a wide variety of topics discussed with many of them focusing on the growth of the game and industry.  One of the candidates for PGA Secretary, Russ Libby, PGA, has created multiple videos about his ideas for growing the game around the country.  This allows me to finally get to my point of this blog post and one that I have discussed in the past.  Sometimes growing the game of golf needs to be looked at with a fresh set of eyes and a very wide open mind.  In recent years we have had programs rolled out that include encouraging players to play 9 holes instead of 18, courses to cut larger cups on the greens, or offering affordable small group instruction designed to get new players interested in the game.  All of these are important in the overall growth of golf and keeping new players coming into the game.  However I will offer up a different idea for growing the game and I am certain everyone reading this knows what that is.

It is time for people involved with golf to really think outside the box and find new avenues to travel down to locate new golfers.  We cannot sit back and wait for people to come to the game; sometimes we have to take the game to them.  At Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, we do that on a weekly basis.  While kids are at this unique hospital making the transition from hospital to home, they are introduced to golf and shown that they can play the game regardless of the medical situation they are facing.  In any other setting, even at many other hospitals, these kids would be told they had no chance of ever playing golf.  We prove that thought process completely wrong.  Kids restricted to their hospital beds, in wheelchairs, using walkers, or with limited use of extremities are all hitting golf balls, sinking putts, smiling, and enjoying the game every week.  Since May 10, 2011, over 2,200 kids have been introduced to golf in this way with many of them continuing to play after leaving the hospital.  Not only have the kids kept playing, but family members, doctors, nurses, therapists, staff, board members, etc., have also learned to play or started playing more golf.  Each week we are simultaneously improving the lives of these junior golfers and growing the game.  I am slightly (ok, highly) biased but I feel that this is a "win-win" situation for everyone involved.


Golf programs like the one I started at Ranken Jordan do many things.  From a golf perspective it introduces the game to a group of people who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to learn how to play.  It also shows those who already play how the game can be used for a much greater benefit than the recreational, social, or competitive benefits they receive from their regular games.  In the setting at Ranken Jordan golf is improving the lives of these amazing kids.  This is where the "win-win" situation I previously mentioned comes into play and the simultaneous benefit of brightening lives and growing the game.  As PGA Professionals, any time we have the opportunity to grow the game and improve someone's life we have to do it.  With great conviction I will tell anyone who asks that there is nothing I do regularly on a weekly basis that means more to me than spending time with the kids at Ranken Jordan showing them how golf can be a part of their lives.  I encourage (and challenge) anyone, inside or outside of golf, who would like to get involved with improving lives and growing the game to contact me.  I guarantee you will never regret it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Unique Goal Setting

42.  To a lot of people that number may not have any significance but to sports fans it can have several meanings.  For many sports fans it means one person:  Jackie Robinson and all the positive changes he brought to the world, not just sports.  Others may think back fondly to Mariano Rivera trotting in from the bullpen as Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blasts from the public address system.  A basketball fan may be reminded of the days of Scott Williams wearing #42 for the Chicago Bulls while he was winning NBA Championships alongside another former University of North Carolina Tar Heels player.  At Ranken Jordan the number 42 has a different meaning.  That number represents the approximate average length of stay of a patient.


Think about that for a minute.  Forty-two days in a pediatric hospital.  Six weeks.  Many of the kids start their hospitalization prior to that at an acute care hospital so their stay in a hospital is actually longer than that.  When you start thinking about that long for a kid in a hospital it makes the amazing work done by the entire hospital staff even more impressive.  Not only are they helping the kids heal physically and transitioning from hospital to home, but they are helping them heal mentally as well.  This is where the model of Ranken Jordan plays such a vital role in helping the children heal.  While the kids may be there for an extended period, they do not just sit in their hospital rooms.  Each morning when they wake up they are out of bed, out of their room, and actively being a kid.


This is one of the many ways that golf comes into play for the kids at Ranken Jordan.  With the extended stays many of them have, being introduced to golf will do multiple things for them.  To begin with, it gives them a regular diversion from the day-to-day life at the hospital.  The kids know when "Golf Day" is and they look forward to it every week.  Not a week goes by when I am not hearing stories about how the kids have been practicing at other times outside the regularly scheduled weekly clinic.  Those stories fill me with joy as it illustrates the positive impact golf is having in their lives.

Being involved with golf also accomplishes something else for the kids.  It allows them to set goals and work towards those goals.  Once the goals are reached new ones are set and the kids get right to work on those.  Many of the goals they set may not be specifically related to golf but golf becomes the vehicle that allows them to achieve their goals.  Some of you may remember the story of thirteen year old A.J. that was told in the article written by Joe Strauss from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in December 2012.  When A.J. came to golf the first day in his wheelchair he boldly stated that he wanted to walk.  Week after week he did his regular therapy and came to Golf Day in his wheelchair yet he kept talking about hitting golf balls while standing up.  A few weeks after he told us his goal he gave his family and all of us that were there an early, very emotional Christmas present as he golf out of his wheelchair, walked to a putting green, made a few putts, and walked back to his wheelchair.


While A.J.'s story does not happen often, those are the types of stories you will hear from the doctors, nurses, therapists, and other staff at Ranken Jordan thanks to the miraculous work they do.  Most of our junior golfers will set more traditional goals like wanting to hit the driver straighter or make more four foot putts.  But occasionally we hear from the kids about how they want to use golf to get better physically, emotionally, and mentally.  I do my best to soak in as much as possible every time I am at Ranken Jordan with the kids.  Unfortunately my small mind will not allow me to remember everything.  But I do remember far more from my time there than I forget.  Many of the things I have seen and heard are permanently etched in my memory.  Golf can be the game of a lifetime for anyone who will allow it to be.  For these kids it not only is the game of a lifetime but it is helping them get their lives back.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

That Aha! Moment

"Did you see the way her face lit up when she saw you and the golf clubs?  Wow!  That is amazing!"

The above comment was made during a recent visit from some out-of-town VIP visitors to Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.  While they were in town they made it a point to schedule time to come see the kids hit golf balls and take a tour of the hospital.  Comments like this are not uncommon when people make their first visit to the hospital.  As often as possible I accompany visitors on tours of the hospital.  I do this for a couple of different reasons.  First, I always learn something new about the hospital that I had not heard before.  Second, it is always a treat to watch the faces and expressions of those taking a tour and seeing the hospital for the first time.  At some point during the tour, these expressions and reactions eventually convey their full understanding of the "magic" (to quote the mother of a former patient and junior golfer) that happens at Ranken Jordan.


With anything in life there are varying levels of understanding.  I have seen this repeatedly when it comes to the junior golf program.  Since the inception of the program in May 2011 I have had numerous conversations with people from all walks of life in regards to what we do with golf in the hospital.  The questions are typically similar and the understanding of the scope of the program can only go so far utilizing words.  During all of these conversations I encourage them to visit this blog, read the stories, look at the pictures, and watch the videos.  Each one of those things allows their understanding of the significance of the program to progress a little bit farther.  However no one can gain a full understanding of the role golf plays in the lives of the kids without seeing it first-hand.


As new visitors spend time with the kids and the junior golf program the full understanding of the significance of the golf program does not take long to sink in.  The smiling faces and laughter are all they need to see and hear.  Of course it does not hurt when they see drivers being ripped long and straight and putt after putt pouring into the hole!  Sometimes this understanding and belief is not exclusive to visitors.  Recently we had a new junior golfer who came to the program and her first comment was "I'm in a wheelchair.  I can't play golf."  It did not take long for us to prove her wrong!  Can you guess who the first one was to show up for golf the following week?  Not only was she the first one out for golf but she also refused to stop practicing at the end of the clinic!


I am very proud of the junior golf program we have built at Ranken Jordan.  Having the privilege of playing a small role in "giving the kids their lives back" is indeed a humbling honor.  Along with the pride I always welcome the opportunity to introduce the program to visitors and share with them the positive impact the game of golf is having on the kids.  Every time I have the chance to expand awareness about Ranken Jordan, their patients, staff, and the incredible work done by everyone there, I try to do just that.  Golf is the game of a lifetime for many of the kids there.  For others it is a healing tool or a positive distraction from the daily life in a hospital.  And for the hospital it is a great way to expose what goes on inside and outside the building as they "give the kids their lives back."  Through the years of this program the one thing that I completely understand is I wish I had started it sooner.

Friday, October 3, 2014

What Ryder Cup??

Like many golf fans I was disappointed that the United States team once again lost the Ryder Cup.  I was fortunate enough to be at Medinah in 2012 for the Ryder Cup matches and was hoping for a better outcome this year.  But once again the European team outplayed our team and kept the Ryder Cup until 2016 at Hazeltine.  However, disappointment did not hang around very long with me.  Later that Sunday night, our local NBC affiliate, KSDK-5, ran a story that made me essentially forget about the Ryder Cup and totally put things into perspective.



I realize that "put things into perspective" is a line straight out of the Bull Durham book of cliches.  However in this situation it is completely appropriate.  The story that night, which you can view by clicking HERE, was about our junior golf program at Ranken Jordan and one of our regulars, Cooper Burks.  KSDK sports anchor, Frank Cusumano, did a great job putting the piece together.  For those that have followed along with this blog or visited the Ranken Jordan website you know that the facility is for medically complex children.  Any time someone needs a big dose of perspective I invite them to come for our golf clinics and spend some time with the kids.

Without hesitation I will say that nothing can "put things into perspective" faster than seeing a sick child.  Following the airing of the story on KSDK-5 I received quite a bit of feedback from people who were just learning about the program for the first time.  Many of them commented that after seeing it they understand much better why I do not get upset on the golf course.  In my eyes there is no reason to.  I have the opportunity to go out and play golf whenever the opportunity presents itself.  I am fortunate that I can hit the ball, go find it, and hit it again.  Many of the kids at Ranken Jordan, and other pediatric healing facilities around the country, will not have that same opportunity.  Therefore, why should I get upset because I did not hit a shot as good as I feel I should have?  If my tee shot goes into the water, big deal.  Put another ball into play, hit it, and play on.


The superstar in the news story, Cooper, and many other kids at Ranken Jordan, will have the opportunity to play golf because of our junior golf program.  In fact, as soon as Cooper is back at Ranken Jordan following his most recent surgeries he will have a golf club in his hands again.  And when he is home with his family he will be able to go to the golf course and play the game of a lifetime.  But that opportunity will not happen without the hard work, pain, determination, and patience of Cooper and his family.  As I mentioned earlier I am fortunate to be able to play golf whenever I get the chance.  But the game has provided me with something much greater than that opportunity.  Golf has provided me the honor and privilege to get to spend so much time with Cooper, our junior golfers at Ranken Jordan, and their families.  If and when it is necessary I have things "put into perspective" on a weekly basis (if not more often than that).  I invite everyone reading this to contact me and plan a time to visit the kids at the hospital.  You absolutely will not regret it and wonder why it took you so long to visit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Turning "Poo" Into Roses

 "Golf is a good walk spoiled." --Mark Twain

"They call it golf because all the other four letter words were taken." --Ray Floyd

"I hate this game and I can't wait to play again tomorrow." --Jeff Sluman


As the quotes and picture above allude to, golf can at times be an incredibly frustrating game.  Anyone who has played can attest to that!  However as frustrating as the game can be, it provides an endless amount of enjoyment and satisfaction that at times can be difficult to explain to anyone who has not given the game a try.  The quote below from World Golf Hall of Famer Lee Trevino more accurately describes the feelings most golfers have about the game.

"I'm a golfaholic, no question about that.  Counseling wouldn't help me.  They'd have to put me in prison, and then I'd talk the warden into building a hole or two and teach him how to play." --Lee Trevino

Try as they might and with all the daily miracles they perform, the doctors and therapists at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital have yet to find a way to immunize the kids in our junior golf program to the frustrations golf can bring on.   But it is the kids themselves who have learned that the frustration felt from a perceived bad shot is only a fleeting feeling and can be eliminated by the next swing.  Many of them have also figured out that golf can turn around a bad day and make it into a good day.  This was exactly what happened during one of my recent visits to Ranken Jordan.


The typical routine for me on "Golf Day" at Ranken Jordan is to get there a little bit early to help set up and hit a few shots myself before the kids start arriving.  While hitting a few pitch shots I heard one of our regulars on his way over tell his mom "I feel like poo . . . but I'm going to play golf!"  Feeling that way is completely understandable due to his persistent pain that makes it very difficult to sleep.  Pain, fatigue, and feeling "like poo" did not stop him from grabbing a driver and hitting golf balls for an hour straight!  Sitting in his wheelchair and swinging with one arm from the side he kept ripping driver after driver off the windows in Warner's Corner.  The smile we all know and love quickly returned to his face.  A minor adjustment to his takeaway led to even better contact and the smile continued to grow.  The next thing you know, while he is still pounding away with the driver, we were talking about the Atlanta Braves starting rotation and how big of a mistake they made by letting Tim Hudson leave via free agency the previous winter.


Golf provides a wide variety of benefits for all of the kids who take part in our junior golf program at Ranken Jordan.  For some it could be a social or emotional improvement that they experience while for others it becomes an integral part of their therapy program.  There are also many kids who pick up a club for the first time in the hospital and continue playing when they leave.  Then there are the ones like the young man discussed in this post.  For him golf is a combination of all these things and many more.  Golf makes his time in the hospital much more enjoyable, helps him through rough days, is part of his therapy, and has become the game of a lifetime for him.  When this particular clinic came to an end he made a point to say thank you and give me a hug for helping make his day better.  I made sure to tell him thank you as having the honor to count him and his family among the people I consider friends definitely makes my day better.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Wish Fulfilled


Growing the game of golf is a challenge facing everyone involved in our game around the world.  As I have well documented on this blog one of the ways I am trying to grow the game is by exposing the game to a "non-traditional" audience.  So far I would say it has been reasonably successful.  Many of the 2,000+ kids who have picked up a club for the first time at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital have continued to play after going home.  Several staff members (doctors, nurses, therapists, administrators, etc.) have begun playing or started playing more since the inception of the golf program.  But with this particular program growing the game is not necessarily the focal point.  Helping kids get better through their involvement with a sport is the most important part.

This blog post will be shorter than many of the ones I have written but I wanted to share a quick story about a conversation I had with one of our junior golfers prior to him going home.  One of my favorite stories to tell about the program involves a young man named Dakota.  He was always one of our "regulars" and made it a point to practice as often as possible.  Dakota's initial impression of golf was that it was "stupid and boring."  Rather than retell the entire story of that first meeting, please click HERE to read a past post that details it.

When I was at Ranken Jordan a couple of weeks ago Dakota told me the great news that he would be going home soon!  Later on that morning he pulled me aside and said he needed to ask my a question.  Through golf Dakota and I developed a good friendship so I had no idea what he was going to ask me!  He got a serious look on his face and asked if there was anyway I could get him a golf club to take home with him.  I told him I would do my best to find something for him to take home.  Fast forward a week and it was time for Dakota to go home.  However I had to give him the bad news that he wouldn't have a golf club to take home.  Instead he would have a brand new full set of U.S. Kids golf clubs!

This is just one of many examples of how important golf has become to many of the kids at Ranken Jordan.  There are times like this when the growth of the game impact is easily quantifiable.  However what is far more important to me is seeing the improvement in the lives of these kids because they have had the opportunity to pick up a golf club.  The smile Dakota had on his face when he saw his new golf clubs is something I will never forget.  Have fun with them, Dakota, and don't break any windows!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kids Say the Darndest Things

According to Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby, "kids say the darndest things."  Spend enough time around kids and it is anybody's guess what you may hear.  Many times the comments they make will have everybody around them laughing uncontrollably.  Other times the sweetness and sincerity in their words can bring tears to your eyes.  And occasionally you will hear them say something that brings a huge smile to your face, leaves you speechless, and provides instant validation for what you are doing.


Over the 3 1/2 years we have been conducting junior golf clinics at Ranken Jordan we have had over 2,000 kids "say some of the darndest things."  One of these instances occurred recently with a new junior golfer.  As is often the case, one of the first things that happened after this young man came to Ranken Jordan was his introduction to the game of golf.  Like many of the kids this was the first time he had ever held a golf club.  Due to the walker he currently uses the length of his backswing was limited.  That did not stop him from boldly stating that "I am going to hit it farther than my daddy!"  We went to work on his swing and quickly had him making consistent contact.  His shots started flying higher, straighter, and farther.  The smile on his face continued to grow bigger with each good shot he hit.  Soon, though, fatigue started to set in and he decided to call it a day.  Before leaving to go back inside he assured me he would practice and be back next week to learn more!

Fast forward a week and "Golf Day" at Ranken Jordan arrived.  True to his word, he was back and I quickly saw that he had been practicing.  The huge smile was still there and his swing was noticeably improved.  We hit shots for a while working on some minor mechanical issues here and there.  When he got tired this week he decided he wanted to learn to putt instead of stopping for the day.  He walked over to a putting green and started rolling a few putts.  With only a couple small changes to his stroke he began putting much better.  A few short minutes later and he made 3 putts in a row!  As soon as the third putt fell into the hole he raised both arms in the air and yelled "I LOVE GOLF" loud enough for everybody in a 5 mile radius to hear him!!  Hearing that left me completely speechless and with an ear-to-ear smile.


Seeing the pure joy and excitement on his face and hearing the same in his voice gave me yet another reminder of why I do what I do at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.  Teaching these kids how they can play golf is truly a privilege and something I look forward to every week.  When we get the reaction described in the story above it quickly illustrates how important golf is to these kids and makes me want to do even more for them.  Reactions like this cannot happen often enough.  The mother of one of our junior golfers once commented that our junior golf program "is magic."  From my point of view the truly magical part is seeing what golf can do for these great kids.  While our new junior golfer keeps yelling "I LOVE GOLF" I'll keep asking "is it Golf Day yet?"

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Campin'

Kids around the United States look forward to summer.  For many of them it means no school, playing all day with friends, family vacations, or summer camps.  But for the kids who have to spend significant portions (or all) of summer in a hospital, summer camp is typically far from their mind.  However, if you happen to be one of the kids at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, you will get your summer camp!


This past week was the second of the week-long summer camps orchestrated by Janine Roe, Community Programs Director at Ranken Jordan.  Each year there is a wide variety of activities and since 2011 golf has been included as one of those activities.  At the camps you will see inpatients, outpatients, day treatment patients, and kids from the community.  All of the activities in the camps encourage interaction between all of the kids.  Nowhere is this more evident than when the kids make their way outside for golf.

On any given weekend morning, spend a little bit of time on any driving range at any golf course in the country, and you will see how inclusive the game of golf can be.  Men, women, and children of all ages, heights, body types, and skill levels are hitting range balls to loosen up before their rounds.  Many foursomes will feature a wide range of scores after the cards have been tallied at the completion of play.  Yet regardless of score, skill level, or age, everyone has the opportunity to play together and compete against each other.


The same situation occurs at Ranken Jordan every year during camp.  Anyone who is there can look down the line of kids hitting golf balls and see kids in wheelchairs, others using walkers, some wearing braces, and several who are completely healthy.  None of this stops any of the kids from grabbing a club and swinging away!  Our group of PGA Professionals and volunteers work with each of the kids and get them hitting the ball as good as possible with the limited time we have to help them.


The camp weeks are some of my favorite times at Ranken Jordan.  These weeks show how inclusive golf can be if given the opportunity.  Social interaction with their peers is one of the many benefits kids receive from being involved in a sport.  These special weeks at Ranken Jordan show that all kids should have the opportunity to learn how to play golf if they choose to.  I have witnessed kids playing and interacting with other kids they may never have even looked at . . . and at the end of the clinic all of them talk about how much fun they had.  Our golf program allows all kids to simply be kids while playing a game.  I sincerely hope that one day we will see similar opportunities and possibilities for kids around the country.

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

Addiction

"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.