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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!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Oh What a Night

"The legacy that Ranken Jordan is putting together is a legacy of changing and saving lives and that's a team I want to be a part of."

This quote came from St. Louis Cardinals Manager and Ranken Jordan Board Member Mike Matheny during his speech at Ranken Jordan's recent Crystal Ball Gala.  During the night, speeches from CEO Lauri Tanner, Chief Medial Officer Dr. Nick Holekamp, and Mike, were all very moving, touching, and inspirational.  The speeches were accompanied by a slideshow of pictures of kids at Ranken Jordan as well as a video of the night's guest of honor, Tracy McMahon.  On this special night the ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton, Missouri, was filled with hundreds of giving people with one shared passion:  helping medically complex children complete the journey from hospital to home.

Mike Matheny & Tracy McMahon

In a way that only he can, Dr. Holekamp shared the story of how Tracy came to Ranken Jordan following a horrific automobile accident.  This accident claimed the life of Tracy's father and given the injuries, should have taken Tracy's as well.  Fortunately it did not.  The accident left Tracy many injuries, including a torn aorta and spinal cord injury that left him unable to walk, that he attacked with an incredible determination.  While at Ranken Jordan Tracy always joined us for golf and because of his background playing hockey quickly picked up the game.  I watched in awe as Tracy would hit driver after driver long and straight only to be followed by a display of finesse with the wedge that might give Phil Mickelson a challenge!  Before Ranken Jordan Tracy had never touched a golf club yet in a few short weeks he looked like he had been playing his entire life.  From the short time I spent with Tracy in the golf clinics I developed a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for this young man.  However that respect and admiration grew by leaps and bounds when I saw the video shown during the Gala.  In that video they showed what can happen when you combine a hard-working patient with dogged determination and a group of medical professionals and therapists who are innovative, creative, passionate, and the best in the business.  When those things are combined you watch a young man who would never walk again get out of his wheelchair and walk.

Tracy getting ready to launch another tee shot with his U.S. Kids Golf driver

A couple of days after the Gala I received Ranken Jordan's annual report in the mail.  It is not just financial statements and numbers that all seem to run together on the pages.  Rather it contains stories of patients, volunteers, and a letter from Lauri Tanner.  Her letter put an exclamation point on the Gala, exactly what it is that Ranken Jordan does, and why the facility is so critically important.  After re-reading it for about the 10th time I asked for, and received, her permission to post a portion of it on this blog:

"When you see a child for the first time after coming out of a coma, it's magical.  When you see a preemie smile who has had to face obstacles in a few short months that most people won't face in the course of a lifetime, it's transformative.

One of our breakthrough understandings at Ranken Jordan is this:  Smiling is healing.

As a Pediatric Bridge Hospital, we take care of kids who face the most complex medical challenges imaginable in their journeys from acute care to home.  Building these bridges that will get kids home to their families requires a passionately dedicated team along with technology to construct something entirely new and tailored to each child's situation.

Yet for these kids, as for all children, the opportunity to learn and play and experience love, curiosity, delight, and laughter, helps them grow and thrive to reach their unique potential.

By getting kids out of  bed and back to being kids, our Care Beyond the Bedside model makes more recovery possible.  The kids' smiles are both a result of healing and a catalyst for more as they continue their journeys home and beyond to their best lives with their families.

Ranken Jordan has a profound presence in people's lives regardless of their connection.  If you spend any time at all here, it will change your life.

It's about giving hope to kids and families who feel hope is lost.

It's about the power of love and connection.

It's about being able to do impossible things.

It's about living when you think your life is over.

People tell me all the time they come for a tour and leave different people."

Every word Lauri wrote is 100% accurate.  Those of you who have been there understand the healing powers and magic contained in every smile.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Just A "Normal" Day of Golf

It has been a while since my last blog post and as I sat down at my computer to start writing a familiar thing happened.  Nothing.  Far too often when I attempt to start composing a post I stare at a blank screen as story after story about the kids at Ranken Jordan circles around in my mind.  Even with the number of posts I have written and the number of stories already told there are countless more stories waiting to escape my simple brain.  To try and kick-start the writing process I did a Google search for quotes relating to golf being the game of a lifetime.  Although not specific to golf, in the results a very appropriate picture appeared:

Yes, those who know me best will find it hard to believe that I used a quote somewhat related to golf that did not come from Carl Spackler or Ty Webb.  However when I saw this I thought it applied quite well to the golf program at Ranken Jordan.  Obviously having a golf program in a pediatric hospital for medically complex children there are a myriad of obstacles that the kids are faced with.  Of course there are doubters out there who do not believe that a program like this is possible.  Throughout the almost 4 years since the program started I certainly have made mistakes and I am sure I will make more in the future.  One thing that makes me very proud about the program is the hard work put in by the junior golfers and the enjoyment they get from the game.

That hard work and enjoyment was evident at our most recent clinic along with some of the obstacles.  In this particular clinic two of our most avid junior golfers were practicing at adjacent spots in Warner's Corner.  I spent the first half of our session working with an amazing young man named Mikey.  I do not believe any of our junior golfers enjoy their time playing and practicing more than Mikey does.  To say he is a huge sports fan is a gross understatement.  Want to know anything about the St. Louis Cardinals, Blues, Rams, or Mizzou Tigers?  Just ask him.  With his love of sports he always looks forward to "Golf Day" at Ranken Jordan.  On this particular day we were working with Mikey on his driver.  Every week our focus with Mikey is on his grip.  Once his left hand and fingers are relaxed enough to get a good grip, we place our hand over his to lightly hold his grip in place, and start hitting golf balls.  On this particular day he looked like he was getting ready for a tournament!  Driver after drive was sent sailing long and straight until the golf balls bounced off the windows.  There was no chance anybody was going to get the smile off his face anytime soon!

Mikey T. working on his putting stroke

The remainder of the clinic I spent with a young man who had joined our group for several holes during the annual Ranken Jordan golf tournament this past July.  If you want to see a junior golfer generate some ball speed off the driver watch him for a few minutes!  Moving between these two stations was a perfect example of how we as instructors need to be able to adapt quickly when working with the kids.  For the first part of the session I was going hand-over-hand with the student I was helping and focusing simply on the grip.  In the second half I was helping a junior golfer do a little bit better job with his weight transfer so he could hit the ball more consistently.  He picked up on what he needed to improve almost instantly and was quickly sending golf balls rocketing off the windows.

At Ranken Jordan the hard work that the junior golfers put in is in multiple areas.  All of them who come to the golf clinics enjoy the game, love to practice, and want to get better.  Quite often you will see them practicing in between clinics after they have convinced the therapists to get out the golf equipment.  But the bulk of their hard work (and most important hard work) comes in their therapy sessions.  This is one of the reasons that introducing the kids to golf has proved to be so beneficial to them.  Several times I have heard from the kids or their parents that they have noticed physical therapy improves their golf and golf makes them want to work harder in therapy.  After watching these two junior golfers during this clinic it showed once again how golf is a healing tool.  The physical improvements were evident and celebrated but the ear-to-ear smiles were what lit up Warner's Corner brighter than the sunshine could.