As kids in this country grow older and get closer to their 16th birthday there is little else on their mind other than when can they start driving a car. Having the freedom to get out and go where they need to (or at least they think they need to) provides an unending amount of happiness. Of course many parents feel the same sense of happiness as their services as a shuttle driver will not be needed as often! Imagine, though, being a 15 or 16 year old boy who has rarely thought about being able to drive a car.
This was the case with one of our "regulars" in the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan. Some of you reading this may remember reading a post from last summer about the day we took Dakota to the golf course. On that special day, Dakota got to get behind the wheel and drive a golf cart. This was the first time he had ever had the opportunity to drive anything! You can imagine that for several days (or weeks) he had a huge smile plastered on his face. To this day he still lights up when he talks about going to the golf course and driving the golf cart.
When I arrived at Ranken Jordan for our most recent golf clinic I was greeted by a smiling Dakota. He told me he had "news" to tell me. His news, much to my surprise and happiness, was that he had passed the written driving test and he received his learner's permit! Given the relationship we have developed I naturally had to make the standard joke about staying off the sidewalks. In reality I could not have been any happier to hear of his achievement. I am very, very proud of him for reaching this accomplishment and also that he was so excited to tell me about it.
Through many of our conversations, both during golf clinics and outside of that time, Dakota has talked about the important role golf has come to play in his life. He has mentioned how golf can "turn a bad day into a good day" and how it has allowed him to get to know other people that he normally would not have socialized with. The game has also shown him that trying something new, even something he initially thought was "stupid and boring," can actually be enjoyable. And after the news he delivered this past week, golf has shown him that something he may have initially thought was impossible was indeed within his reach.
Golf is playing a much bigger role in the lives of these amazing kids than most people realize. Yes, we are teaching them that they can play the game of a lifetime regardless of the medical issues they may be dealing with. And yes they are seeing physical, emotional, and social benefits from being involved with a sport. But it also shows them that they can do things they may not have realized they would be able to. Just a simple game hitting and chasing a little white ball has led to something this important in a young man's life. Golf provided this opportunity. Congratulations, Dakota, I am very proud of you. But I am still staying off the sidewalks.