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Meet Zurich Classic of New Orleans volunteer extraordinaire Kevin Block

April 28, 2017

By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR Staff

NEW ORLEANS- For many people, coming to grips with the birth of a child with Down syndrome understandably takes time.

Then, there’s Kevin Block, the New Orleans resident who accepted his son’s Down syndrome before his wife even conceived the couple’s first of two children.

Don’t, however, call him brave or amazing. After all, it’s Block himself who refers to his strides in life as, of all things, the result of being selfish.

“I’ve always found myself driven to help a child in need really,” Block said. “But, actually, it was more than that. If somebody just takes the time and reaches out and makes a connection, it helps just brighten that child's day. It helps the family, sure, but it also helps my life personally. Selfishly, I get very much touched by every situation where I can help kids. It becomes personal to me. That's a selfish reason that I do it, but I hope that I give back tenfold of what I get out of it.”

Block, a third-year volunteer at this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, has volunteered with children’s organizations the better part of his adult life. Among his efforts include time at Jesuit High School’s Camp Sunshine for children with MS, children’s hospitals and, most recently, the Fore! Kids Foundation.

While all children are special to Block, it’s the ones with special needs that hold the most weight in his heart.

“For me, it was always the inclusion factor,” he said. “Right after a high school service project at Camp Sunshine, I told myself if I had a child with special needs, I'd have no problem doing it. I'd readily accept it, and I carried that through my whole life.”

On August 31, 2014, that life put Block to the test. The couples’ first of two children, Walker, was born with Down syndrome.

“So, when my son was born, it was more of a ‘Hey, now I have another reason to further my mission,’” Block said. “I was, like ‘He’s no different than anybody else,’ and that's all we want for him. So, you can’t look at him and try to isolate him because of his diagnosis. He is a normal two-year-old kid that runs around roughhousing, playing around and having a great time. He just happens to have Down syndrome. That’s a footnote in his life story thus far, and I want it to continue to be that way, just like everything else.”

With the birth of Walker came larger demands on Block’s time. While still volunteering when he could, the special needs child that needed him most was under his own roof.

Once the “new normal” took effect at home, a reinvigorated Block decided to make a part time return to giving back wholeheartedly. 

“My dad had been involved with the Fore!Kids Foundation, and I just felt more of a drive because there had kind of been a lapse in my connection with other kids,” he said. “So, I found out it was this charitable organization, which had a big involvement with the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.”

One who enjoys golf and kids, Block signed up. Now in his third year as a volunteer for the tournament under the Fore!Kids Foundation umbrella, he has seen and done most everything associated with keeping the fabric of a PGA TOUR event stitched together. And, while the “Wow factor” of working a professional sporting event was present, something else remained prevalent.

“With regard to the tournament, the culmination of the charitable impact is what got me,” he said. “What this event brings in financially goes way beyond just interacting with great golfers. It's more of, ‘Hey, where does that go after the fact,’ because nine times out of ten people probably don't realize the Fore!Kids Foundation is even involved. That’s unfortunate in my opinion, because I feel like it would draw more people if they knew they were coming to see a golf tournament and coming to contribute to a greater good. So, for me it's always been on the back end. The tournament has been great, but what the tournament actually does for so many community outreach programs for children is the biggest thing, I think.” 

Last year, in just his second year as a volunteer, Block caught wind of something called the PGA TOUR Volunteer Challenge. Learning of the $10,000 prize in the form of a charity donation, Block threw his hat in the ring. But, for a guy who admittedly had zero connection to social media, he figured his chances were slim at best.   

“So, at one of our foundation meetings last year they made an announcement about this Volunteer Challenge,” Block recalled. “They said that anybody who’s a volunteer can sign up online and get people to vote for you for a chance to win the charity donation. It's free money, I thought. I signed up right then while we were in the meeting, but only told a handful of people. All of a sudden I got a phone call from my mom saying, ‘Hey, are you doing this volunteer challenge? Three people just emailed it to me. Why didn't you tell me?’  Honestly, I didn't think about it after signing up.” 

Having designated New Orleans’ St. Michael Special School as the would-be recipient of his victory prize, word via social media spread fast and furious, even without his involvement with social media. Among those who reached out to Block was the Principal of St. Michael Special School.

“She said how grateful she was that I had chosen the school to receive the donation if I won,” he said. “I was, like, ‘How did you find out.’  She said one of the parents saw it online and sent it to us. They distributed it, put it on their Facebook page and told everybody and anybody to go out and vote for me. I'm not on social media.  I'm not on Twitter, Facebook, whatever, so it just became a grass‑roots thing. I got reinvigorated after all that, so my wife and I started reaching out to all of our friends. She's from Michigan, so we got Michigan votes, I got Florida votes, Seattle votes. Wherever all our friends were located, I was calling, texting, whatever. So, that's how I ended up winning.” 

Since 1965, St. Michael Special School has been educating special needs students from the age of six through adulthood. In addition to standard educational classes, the students are provided vocational training, independent living and community integration. 

The PGA TOUR Volunteer Challenge is a friendly competition which honors the talent and dedication of more than 100,000 PGA TOUR volunteers nationwide while supporting local charities.

From now until 1 p.m. CT on April 29, volunteers are asking people to vote for them at pgatour.com/volunteers. Those who do not know a volunteer can vote directly for the tournament. At the end of the voting period, the volunteer team with the most votes will present a $10,000 check on behalf of Astellas Pharma US, Inc., to its chosen charity from a list selected by the tournament. The tournament also has the opportunity to earn up to an additional $65,000 in charitable bonus funds based on the total number of votes received collectively by volunteers and the tournament. 

Whether it’s at home with Walker, a special needs child of his own, or with the countless other special needs children whose lives he impacts, Block’s commitment and dedication is remarkably special in its own way. It not only comes across in how he describes his mission, but also by the actions with which he takes to back those words up.

“What these kids give me is something I can only hope to give back,” he said. “Because for me, it’s just magical when you can make that connection with that person. Before you come along, that child could be reclusive or shy because of their illness or diagnosis, but when you can help break them out of that shell, you’ve been able to assure them that they're just like everybody else and nobody can tell them differently.”

Please click HERE to cast your vote for Kevin in the PGA TOUR Volunteer Challenge. Voting ends at 1 p.m. (CT) on Saturday, April 29.

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