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Kate and Justin Rose Foundation treat Orlando students to a special day

Kate Rose leads a group of students on the course at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 20.
(K&JRose Foundation Twitter)

March 21, 2014

By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR Staff

ORLANDO, Fla.- After his 10-under 62 in round one of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, Adam Scott’s likely wondering what he’ll follow that up with in round two today and how he’ll be looking headed into the weekend.

Scott, however, wasn’t the only one with questions of how they’ll fare over the weekend.

The statistic is unsettling. In the United States, 62 percent of elementary school students are in the free and reduced meal program. For many of these students, lunch at school Friday is their last meal until breakfast at school Monday.

That’s not sleeping on a lead. That’s tossing and turning over the darkness of uncertainty.

Once again this year, the Kate and Justin Rose Foundation helped make strides to cut through that darkness. Not only does the reigning U.S. Open champion and his wife want to provide immediate assurance to these kids in the form of food for the weekend, but they want to provide food for thought. If you can see it, they implore, you can be it.

“Blessings in a Backspack” is a national program which sends kids home from school for the weekend with food. It’s a program near and dear to the Rose’s collective heart. Blessings in a Backpack runs annually for the 38-week duration of the school year. The hope of the program is for both immediate and long-term results.    

“The students come to school tired and hungry,” said Ramona Ustian, Blessing in a Backpack’s National Board Chair. “They’re anxious and not able to behave. So we provide the backpack full of food, so they can have food over the weekend.” As a result, energy and focus re-emerge. Attitudes, like grades, improve and create the stride for a greater chance at a brighter future. 

On Thursday, 20 deserving second-grade students from Grand Avenue Elementary in Orlando were treated by Kate and Justin to an afternoon outing and lunch at Bay Hill. The point of the outing, Kate stresses, isn’t just to watch golf, but see potential.

“This day is so fun for the kids. They have been looking forward to it for a long time,” she said. “It’s a great day for them. Yeah, sure, they get to be out of school, but it’s also education in a sense. They have really never seen anything like this. I don’t just mean seeing the guys play golf, but the whole package of all that goes into putting on a big event.”

There are volunteers, media members and maintenance crews. There’s fitness experts, vendors and television production personnel. And, it’s all laid out before the eyes of many children who’ve never been able to stray beyond the less-than-desirous immediate world around them. Every one of those folks was once a child, as well. And hungry or not, they too had the world before them. 

“Our children rarely get out of the Paramore/Holden Heights area near downtown Orlando,” said Lino Rodriguez, Grand Avenue Elementary Principal. “So, this is a real treat. It’s an opportunity for them to expand their vision of the world and to see things beyond the city blocks in which they live.”

“These students have never really had the opportunity to see a golf course and many basic things like a baseball field,” said Ustian. “So, this has been a wonderful experience and they are having a lot of fun.”

Kate noted that while some of the students have seen Justin on TV and may view him as a celebrity, the real value the kids hopefully come away with is of a much more personal and inspirational nature.

“For them, the point is they feel like there’s someone out there who cares outside of their own community,” Kate said. “They feel like there is someone out there to whom they are being heard, to whom they’re being seen. They hopefully get the sense that their voice is being heard.”

The mission of the Kate and Justin Rose Foundation is to nurture the children from the inside out. In addition to nutritional education and awareness, it’s to provide them opportunities to expand their horizons.

“Kate and Justin have demonstrated so much love to these kids over the years,” said Rodriguez. “They’ve done so not just through this tournament, but through the Blessings in a Backpack program, as well. Everything the Rose’s do for us is a home run. It’s high quality, it’s backed by integrity. They’re very genuine people committed to the well-being of our children.”

At one point Thursday after looking around perplexed, one of the students tugged at Kate’s arm with a tell-tale observation. “There’s no trash laying around,” the little girl said. “Where does all the garbage go?”

That’s a tough question to answer to a child about to return to the reality which legitimized the inquiry. But, day by day, and piece by piece, people like Kate and Justin are helping to absolve minds of such curiosity. And through the efforts of folks like the Rose’s, the reality of a child’s mind may one day not end up stuck at point “A.” Instead, it may begin anew, with a whole new set of questions, starting with And what can I do today to get to point “B?”

“To me, the whole idea is to open kids’ eyes to a new dream,” said Justin Rose. “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.”


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