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A Project Takes Bloom

Kate Rose (second from left) met with some Orlando-area students who will benefit from Blessings in a Backpack.

March 29, 2011

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

 

ORLANDO, Fla.—Justin Rose chuckled at the memory.


“They asked me if I knew Tiger Woods,” the PGA TOUR veteran said with a grin.


The query came from one of the eager youngsters from the Grand Avenue Primary Learning Center quietly waiting for Rose as he made the turn during the first round of last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.


The kids, who assembled under a shady tree on the left side of the 10th fairway at Bay Hill, were among many who have been helped by Rose’s commitment to the Blessings in a Backpack project in the Orlando area. The program provides underprivileged students with backpacks full of food each Friday that they can eat on the weekends.


Rose said he had made his longest putt of the day—an 8-footer for par—on the previous green with the kids watching intently. "So I rose to the pressure which was nice," the Englishman said cheerfully.


Rose and his wife, Kate, first became involved with Blessings in a Backpack about a year ago when they hosted a golf outing at Lake Nona. The two are heavily involved in cancer-related charities back in England—Rose lost his father to leukemia and Kate her mother to breast cancer.


But after the 2009 birth of their son Leo, they wanted to focus their efforts in their adopted home in the United States on young children. Kate is formerly on the board of the PGA TOUR Wives Association, and Blessings in a Backpack is one of the organization’s primary charities.


Lino Rodriguez, who is the principal at Grand Avenue, said the funds raised at Rose’s pro-am last June were enough to perpetuate the program for more than two years. And Rose noted that it only takes $80 to support a child for the 38 weeks of the school year.


“Bottom line, our students are hungry,” Rodriguez told blessingsinabackpack.org. “They tell us they’re hungry, they write it to us, and they appreciate anything we can do for them, from providing healthy snacks during the school day to providing some food for the weekend to sustain them.”


But Rose wanted to do more. Hence the field trip to Bay Hill.


“We were so touched when we actually met the kids,” Rose said. “They were so inquisitive and still so naive, which is such a great thing. All I wanted to do is create some opportunity for them—whether it [would] be taking them on a day trip to the beach because their head teacher said some of these kids will probably never see the ocean, and we only live 30-40 miles away. So that kind of thing blew my mind.


“Obviously here at Bay Hill, playing at home, created the perfect opportunity to organize something for the kids to come out because you never know what sparks a kid. At this age, they are all growing up, probably in tough circumstances, but you never know what gets ignited, or sparked, or has a dream. They are still young enough that they can go on to achieve great things in their lives.”


Mark Wilson played with Rose in the first two rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Wilson and his wife, Amy, the president of the PGA TOUR Wives Association, support Blessings in a Backpack in the Chicago area.


“It was cool,” Mark Wilson said when asked about the youngsters in their gallery. “The Roses are doing the school here so they brought the kids out. It was great to see and gives them an experience they might never have otherwise. So hats off to Justin and Kate for thinking of it.”


Rose, Wilson and Zach Johnson wandered over to chat with the kids and pose for pictures after they made the turn. The children wore t-shirts with the PGA TOUR’s charity and Blessings in a Backpack logos above the words: “Proudly supported by Justin and Kate Rose.”


“Looking smart,” Rose said as he gathered the youngsters close together for a photo. “All right, guys, there are some future golfers here, right?”


Perhaps there are. After following Rose and Co., the kids headed to a picnic at the home of Amy Saunders, who is the daughter of Arnold Palmer and the mother of Sam Saunders, who was also playing in the tournament. Rose said he hoped the outing would show the kids that the possibilities in life are endless.


“That’s what I hope that the day might bring—well, you never know what it will bring—but just basically a fun day out for the kids to see the PGA TOUR, probably something they hadn’t experienced before," Rose said. “They’re such cute, great kids. For me, what struck me when I met them was how open-minded they are.”

 

 

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