How To Help

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

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.