"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.