Of Backpacks, Food and Endless, Green Grass
March 23, 2012
By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR Staff
ORLANDO, Fla.—It wasn’t the 320-yard drives, the flush 5-irons or fiery fist pumps. It wasn’t the balls disappearing into the hole from all over the greens or the massive crowds which surrounded them. Instead, what got their attention was…the grass. More than anything, it was, well, just grass.
On Thursday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Justin Rose’s 3-under 69 was nice, but not nearly as satisfying as the feat achieved with the aid of Kate, his wife, as they wrote the latest installment that is brightening children’s futures through the Blessings in a Backpack program.
In conjunction with the PGA TOUR and the PGA TOUR Wives Association, the Roses welcomed 20 children from the Grand Avenue Primary Learning Center to watch the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, complete with a picnic lunch. The food was good and watching the game’s greatest was, as they said, “awesome.” But, again, the visual commodity of plush green grass took the breath away from the inner-city kids who otherwise don’t usually see any grass, let alone endless green grass.
“Through the Blessings in a Backpack program, we help feed children and implement programs and outings to give them something to look forward to outside their daily lives,” said Kate Rose. “These are kids who go home many times on a Friday and don’t know where or even when their next meal is. The Blessings in a Backpack program does just that, provide backpacks stuffed with food for children and families so that when the kids return to school on Monday, they’re nourished and ready to focus on the work ahead of them.”
On the PGA TOUR, making the cut means you’ve retained a job for another two days and made it to the weekend. A paycheck is guaranteed. To thousands of children, however, just making it through the weekend is the dubious task at hand. There is no guarantee. Alleviating that obstacle is a primary goal of Blessings in a Backpack.
In addition to providing families with food to eat to families for the weekend, an extension of the Orlando program, credited largely to the Roses, is to provide special trips to kids who, throughout the year, demonstrate a hard-work ethic, character and personality-development. The bottom line is these kids earned their green grass.
“They are having such a special time here,” Kate added. “It doesn’t surprise me that they are so taken by the grass, though. Many of them don’t have grass around their homes. They have just been sitting down in it today, running their hands through it and commenting on how soft and pretty it is. One little girl couldn’t believe there wasn’t trash everywhere around the houses.”
“We are so very appreciative of what Justin and Kate are doing with this program,” said said Katundra Maddox, family intervention specialist at Grand Avenue Primary Learning Center. “They are allowing us to do something that is not the norm for these kids. This is something these kids would otherwise never have any exposure to. This could turn into a future for one of them.”
“To me, the whole idea is to open kids’ eyes to a new dream, give them a spark,” said Justin Rose, a four-time PGA TOUR winner. “When something great in life happens to someone, it’s the end result of a dream, a spark. Giving them belief that there is something bigger and better out there is just a really special feeling.”
“It’s hard to find words to express our gratitude,” said Grand Avenue Primary Learning Center Principal Lino Rodriguez. “As a principal, we are blessed to be a part of a team that ministers to those in need. Justin and Kate have been a part of that team, and their type of support is simply hard to find. They have made a commitment to our school whereby they have provided food and funds for food for Blessings in a Backpack. Food going home on the weekends means so much to our families.
“They also give us the opportunity,” Rodriguez continues, “to get out of our area to experience things our kids would never get to experience. That helps our students learn. What better gift is there than that?”
Through the Blessings in a Backpack program here, the goal is to expose kids to people who are kind, caring and sympathetic. All are from the inner-city, where many lead intense, stressful lives, so a main goal of the program is to allow them to see and participate in something they’ve never had a chance to experience.
In addition to the special trips to expose kids with limited or no access to outside resources, Blessings in a Backpack doesn’t just show kids that the grass may be greener on the other side but more importantly that there is a way to get to that greener grass.
“The nuts and bolts to the program is to make sure kids get to school Monday morning nourished from the weekend,” said Justin Rose. “If I don’t eat properly on the golf course, my focus changes. It’s no different for these kids who are trying to focus and learn. Giving kids good life experiences and a good education is what this is all about.”
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