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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!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Favorite Things

At this point, for regular readers of this blog, everyone should realize that the one thing I most look forward to every week is Wednesday afternoon.  Most people look forward to a weekend and having the opportunity to wind down for a long week at work.  However golf professionals are different.  Our "weekends" typically fall at some point during the regular work week.  Saturday and Sunday to us means our golf course is busy and we know we will be at work from sunrise to sunset.  However I do not look forward to Wednesday afternoon because it is my normal day off.  I look forward to it for the same reason as the kids at Ranken Jordan:  Golf Day!

Every time I walk through the door at Ranken Jordan it is a great day.  Any opportunity I have to spend time with the kids is a wonderful experience.  During the past 4 1/2 years there it has become obvious that you can never know why it will be a special day.  It could be something as simple as seeing one of our junior golfers smile after making a putt or the laughter that is sure to follow after they hit one of the "human targets."  Other times we will watch 13 year old A.J. reach his goal of learning to walk again or over time watch Cooper progress from hitting golf balls from his hospital bed to wheelchair to walker to being steadied with a gait belt to no assistance at all.  Every day there, just like each one of the kids, is special for its own reason.

Before a recent "Golf Day" got started, I looked up when I heard one of the therapists calling my name.  She was bringing over one of our regular junior golfers, May, who told me she was being discharged to go home very shortly.  May wanted to be certain she saw me before she left and my ear-to-ear smile showed I was thrilled that she did.  Prior to her time at Ranken Jordan she had never touched a golf club.  During her time there she made significant progress and told us she wanted to keep playing after going home.  Every time the golf clubs came out May wanted to hit her favorite red U.S. Kids driver.  To help her continue playing golf after she went home, we made sure May left with her favorite red U.S. Kids driver.  While I was crouched down talking to May (I try to always do that with the kids in wheelchairs so we are looking eye-to-eye) she said she had one more thing to tell me before she went home.  May got this huge smile on her face and suddenly got shy.  One of the therapists who was standing there with us prompted her by asking May what her favorite part of being at Ranken Jordan was.  Her response was short, sweet, and very humbling.  May said "my favorite part of being at Ranken Jordan was learning to play golf."

At that point May had to go finish up a few things so she could go home.  That is probably good so she would not see the tears of joy rolling down from behind my sunglasses!  Moments like this will remain with me forever.  They also show just how important of a role golf can play as a healing tool in the lives of children of all ages.  Golf provided May with the opportunity to learn a new game that she can play for the rest of her life.  It also allowed her to get extra therapy, without realizing that was happening, while smiling, laughing, and having fun with her friends.  Having these wonderful memories that will be treasured forever is an indescribable feeling.  However knowing that golf is playing a small role in the recovery of so many children is on an entirely different level.  While May's favorite part of being at Ranken Jordan was learning to play golf, my favorite thing is watching amazing kids like May get better while learning to play golf.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tellin' a Story

"I wanted to tell you how inspiring the Best Practices you wrote was.  It was so refreshing to read an article that wasn't solely based on financial gain.  We currently work with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in hosting a fundraising event, but I never thought of doing something in that capacity.  I am going to reach out to our contacts on Monday and discuss this possibility."

"Great to hear about you going to the Children's Hospital for golf clinics! It is all about the smiles! Keep up the great work."

"I really appreciate your article and what you do for the kids at the Children's Hospital.  I'd like to do something similar at our local Children's Hospital as this has definitely been on my heart in helping these kids "forget" about current physical situations for a short period of time."

"Just opened my new PGA Magazine and read the article about your program in the back of the magazine.  I am just so impressed, and it's truly heartwarming to read about something so truly giving--made possible through golf.  My younger brother was born with all kinds of health issues (healthy now, thank goodness) so I have this soft spot for sick little kids.  I don't know of a "best practice" or program that's resonated with me more, ever, than yours. Two thumbs way, way up."

Each of the quotes above came from e-mails I received from fellow PGA Professionals following a recent article in the October issue of PGA Magazine (read the article HERE) and a "Best Practices" e-mail blast that the PGA of America sends out on a weekly basis.  To say these words were very moving would be a gross understatement.  The fact that these PGA Professionals would take the time out of their day to send a message was very much appreciated.  This type of feedback was not limited to just PGA Professionals.  A close friend of mine, unknowingly to me, shared the article on her Facebook page telling me after the fact "I knew you wouldn't share it so I just did it.  I wanted to share something great."  That post, which included a link to the article, was shared dozens of times by golfers and non-golfers alike.  The comments from those shares made it obvious that people were moved by the amount of good being done through golf.

Reading the comments and feedback from professional colleagues, friends, acquaintances, and strangers, has been incredible.  It is also one of the results I was hoping we would see from the article and the Best Practice.  When I started the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan in May 2011, I wanted to see a few different things happen.  First and foremost, obviously, was and is to put smiles on the faces of all the kids and help them get better physically and mentally while they are in the hospital and after they go home.  I also wanted to see this program be the impetus that led to the creation of similar programs at other pediatric healing facilities around the country (and world for that matter).  The other thing I have tried to do from the beginning is raise awareness of Ranken Jordan.  With comments coming from across the Midwest and around the country, this has certainly happened.  Ranken Jordan is a unique facility doing miraculous work and it is an honor to be able to share that with other people.

Through everything that has been written about the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan the message has remained the same:  golf is a healing tool.  The stories that were told in the PGA Magazine article and the Best Practice are indicative of the things golf can do to heal someone physically.  Golf also provides mental healing, even though it drives most of us crazy at times!  Watching kids improve physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially through golf has been mind-blowing.  In the past few weeks it has been wonderful to be able to share a small sampling of the way golf can heal with a nationwide audience.  Thank you very much to Sandy Cross from the PGA and Roger Graves from PGA Magazine for making the telling of these stories possible.  As I have said many times in the past, for anyone who wants to learn more and potentially start their own program, please contact me with any questions you may have.  You will quickly arrive at the same realization I did.  Starting a program like this will be the best thing you have done in golf and you will wish you had started it sooner!