In today's climate of instant gratification and general lack of patience, it is not often that you get the opportunity (or recognize when you have that opportunity) to sit back and watch something happen over a period of time. Being able to see a slow, steady progression and improvement in almost any environment typically leads to wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. For some people this could be seeing their training runs getting longer and faster as they get closer to running a marathon. Others may see regular improvement at work that eventually leads to a promotion and/or a raise. For me, as I have said many times on this blog, I am incredibly fortunate to see this steady progression and improvement on a regular basis at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.
Recently we had a junior golfer join us during a golf clinic for what has become a regular part of his therapy. Drew played every sport possible, including golf, prior to a very serious accident that led to his arrival at Ranken Jordan. Rather than me do a very inadequate job of telling Drew's story, please watch this incredible video: Drew's story. As you hear about in the video, doctors told Drew and his family that he would not walk again . . . and then he walked out of Ranken Jordan. He obviously has worked very, very hard in therapy to get to where he is at. Shortly after coming to Ranken Jordan Drew joined us for golf. Having been an avid player prior to his accident he was excited to hit a few shots. After hitting about a dozen shots from his wheelchair he was tired and called it a day (a few hours of therapy prior to golf would have me worn out, too!). Drew has continued to work hard in therapy and on his golf swing and has seen steady improvement. At a recent clinic he came in and I handed him a golf club to get started. He responded by saying he needed a longer club because he was going to stand up to hit. We could not get him set up fast enough to stand up and swing! These are the exact types of milestones and accomplishments that make this far more than your typical junior golf program.
We have had another junior golfer who recently started playing and whose story always brings a smile to my face. Prior to coming to Ranken Jordan he had never touched a golf club in his life. When initially asked to join us he really had no interest at all. While watching the other kids hit golf balls and have fun he eventually decided to give it a try. His swing was very natural and he was quickly banging golf balls off the windows of Warner's Corner. Fast forward about 6 weeks and he pulled me aside to ask a question. What he wanted to know was how he could keep playing golf after he was discharged to go home! My response to him was the same as it is to every kid at Ranken Jordan. I told him to concentrate on getting better and going home; I would take care of the golf side of it. What this junior golfer does not know yet is that he will have a full set of golf clubs and brand new golf bag to take home with him when he is discharged.
Stories like these are what makes the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan so special and unique. While we do focus on the game, success is not always defined by who made the most putts, hit the longest drive, or shot the lowest score. Very frequently we determine success by who went from hitting golf balls in their wheelchair to standing up to hit, who had the stamina to hit for 5 more minutes than last week, who had the dexterity to progress to using an interlocking grip instead of a baseball grip, etc. All of these things show that our junior golfers are seeing improvements with their health. This is what matters. Seeing the children improve physically, emotionally, and socially is incredible. Put yourself in a position to see these things and you will understand. All it takes is watching one child's face light up with an ear-to-ear smile after sinking a putt and you will be hooked. As Mrs. Mary Ranken Jordan was fond of saying, "consider the children first in all that you do."