J.J. Henry Helps Raise Money for The First Tee
June 29, 2010
By Chris Elsberry
This story originally appeared in The Connecticut Post
FAIRFIELD, Conn.—J.J. Henry wanted to do something more. Do something big. Something special. For years now, Henry has been giving back to the area, especially to the First Tee program of Fairfield County. Right now, there is a small building that sits adjacent to the ninth green at Fairchild Wheeler golf course. It’s basically a storage shed that the First Tee kids use when they come to the Wheel for practice.
Pretty soon, however, something else will be standing next in place of that storage shed. Something big. Something special.
Henry, along with his Henry House Foundation, the Patterson Club (Henry’s home course as a kid) and The First Tee Metropolitan New York, sponsored a Tee it Up event Monday to raise money for the construction of a 5,000-square foot learning center and clubhouse that will include a computer lab, indoor classroom and lounge area.
The event, which included 24 corporate foursomes playing golf, along with a dinner and silent auction, was expected to raise over $100,000 for the construction of the First Tee learning center.
“I’ve been really looking forward to this day. There’ a lot of hard work from a lot of people that went into this event,” Henry said, fresh off a T42nd-place finish in the 2010 Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. “We started this a couple of years ago with a breakfast at Fairchild Wheeler and we thought, How can we make this bigger and better and raise more money for the First Tee?’”
Last year, Patterson Club members Greg Fell and Rick Richardson organized an charity dinner for the First Tee Program and on the heels of that, got in touch with Henry and the people at the Henry House Foundation—a non-profit organization founded by Henry and his wife, Lee, in 2006 that generates public awareness and supports community-based programs that focus on the well-being of children in the area—and decided to take the next step.
A giant next step.
From that small charity dinner came Monday’s day-long event that opened with Henry speaking to over 60 kids from the First Tee program of Fairfield County.
There was a display of trick golf shots by Peter Johncke before 24 of those First Tee kids played in a scramble golf outing, followed by dinner and the silent auction.
Knowing how much was being raised and knowing how many kids were going to be benefiting from the outing had Henry beaming with pride.
“This is something that I’m really proud of. We had a bunch of kids down there on the practice tee laughing and smiling,” Henry said.
“I talked to them a little bit about what the game of golf meant to me. About growing up and believing in your dreams. It brought back a lot of neat memories of hitting balls down on the range there for the kids. I put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears down there practicing as a kid.”
Thanks to the efforts of Barry McLaughlin, the executive director of the First Tee Program of Metropolitan New York, and Steven Roach, the head pro at Fairchild Wheeler, more than 900 kids are participating in the First Tee program at the Wheel, using the putting green and the driving range.
Once the learning center is built, McLaughlin expects to see those numbers jump dramatically.
“We’ll be able to increase those numbers as much as perhaps double once we have year-round capabilities,” he said. “We’ll also be able to being kids in from other towns, Stamford and Norwalk and other First Tee groups. They’ll be able to come up and play the golf course and use the facility.”
From the tee box area to the woods that signal the end of the practice range at Patterson is about 270 yards.
It took Henry until he was 12 before he was able to finally reach the woods. After blasting several balls over the tops of the trees Monday morning, Henry stepped aside and let the First Tee kids practice. For close to an hour, they received instruction from some of the local club professionals, such as Roach, to help improve their games.
“If we can give kids a chance from the area that probably wouldn’t have the chance if it wasn’t for the First Tee, to play golf and for them to have their own learning center, maybe we can inspire them to not only be better golfers but to be better people,” Henry said.
“That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
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