Children’s hospitals across the state of Florida and eventually the nation are “Putting on Smiles”. The project designed by PGA Master Professional, Andre Panet-Raymond and supported by the North Florida Section of the PGA of America, engages PGA Professionals to visit children’s hospitals monthly. The golf professionals instruct the children of all ages on the fundamentals of putting in a light and fun manor, and then hold a tournament for the children, within their community play area. The SNAG equipment used was designed by Wally Armstrong, a former PGA Tour veteran and now known worldwide for his ability to teach golf. The colorful clubs are oversized plastic which hit miniature tennis balls to a Velcro target with point values. Once the children have confidence that they can putt the ball and hit the four foot wide target (divided by seven sections with the center being a bull’s eye), the competition begins and in no time, everyone in the room is “Putting on Smiles”. An official score board is made and posted on the wall. All children walk away with a ribbon, medal, or a smiley face golf ball and the winner receives a trophy.
The project that Panet-Raymond designed originated from a “curriculum for living a life powerfully and living a life you love” in which he participated September of 2006. Panet-Raymond states that Landmark Education’s SELP (Self Expression and Leadership Program) which is the third of the three curriculum levels “gave me and still continue to give me the tools, support, and encouragement that I need to impact any community to which I choose. Although the children in the hospital, their parents, and the staff are impacted, the community I chose was the PGA of America”. Golf professionals are being impacted in ways that they can’t imagine until they participate in the events. “Seeing the kids come in without much to smile about and leave uplifted and happy is such an incredible feeling and a blessing for me”, says Joey Hidock, a PGA Professional who now leads an event monthly at Arnold Palmer’s Children’s Hospital in Orlando.
Other hospitals which are running on a monthly basis include All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg and Florida Children’s Hospital in Orlando. Wolfsons Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville is scheduled for their first event January 22nd and Shands Children’s Hospital at the University of Florida, Gainesville will be starting up January 23rd. The project is being well received and the feedback from the children is great. “I’m excited to kick off each the hospitals with the pros and experience the various impacts of the project”, says Panet-Raymond. “We received one letter from a hospital stating that the children are excited for our next visit and have asked on several occasions if the activity for the day could be golf”.
The project has been supported not only by Landmark Education and North Florida Section PGA but also by Titleist, local trophy shops, participating golf professionals, and Wally Armstrong, who has donated the equipment used to remain at the hospitals for the children to use until the next event. “We couldn’t hold the events without the support of these people and businesses”, says Panet-Raymond. “My vision is to personally open every children’s hospital across the country with hopes that an area professional will take the ball and run with it each month from there forward.” Panet-Raymond plans to take his family with him in an RV motor home and journey the country, one hospital at a time. Although at this time he does not have the sponsorship needed to support the vision, he is confident that people will make the donations necessary to carry it out. “When the timing is right, it will all fall divinely into place”, says Panet-Raymond. “Whether it is a major company, a wealthy individual, or the combination of several small contributions, I truly believe that our needs will be met to make the trip around the country come to fruition.” Anyone have a full size RV?