Slowly, steadily, a new golfing program is helping change the lives of youth in the Prescott, Ontario area.
G.I.F.T. (Golf Initiative For Tomorrow) came to life in the Fall of 2012 through the efforts of local volunteers seeking alternative activities for young people in the town along the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The genesis of the program took place after there was some trouble with vandalism involving young people. Seeking to find alternative activities for all kids on the community, Jim Decksheimer, a local golf enthusiast and member at Prescott Golf Club came up with an idea. “I thought ‘there’s got to be a better way” so I thought why don’t we start a non-profit program to sponsor kids and put them on the golf course.”
Decksheimer chose golf as he felt the sport reflected the same value of honesty, integrity, and respect that they hoped to instill in the kids.
The Chair and Founder of the program, which now has full committee of volunteers, was looking at the effort from many perspectives. “I figured it was a win-win-win situation. The kids get to learn how to play golf, they don’t have to pay for it, the golf course gets the added publicity and maybe possible future members, and the town gets the kids off the street.”
That winter the group held a fundraiser that yielded $3000. It was enough to sponsor three kids for a full junior membership (including range), a golf camp, golf clubs, and further lessons. The program grew to 7 kids in 2014 and they are expecting that number to be 13 in 2015 thanks to a groundswell of support, including the Canadian Tire ‘Making Play Possible’ Jumpstart Program. Included in that support is golf equipment.
To strengthen the chance of success each child can be part of the program for up to three years and they might consider even longer if they show a passion for the game.
Decksheimer says they have grown quite quickly with the community and golf course getting behind them. He is joined on the program’s board by Heather McKay, Mark Thornton, Bill Minkhorst, and Les Randle and says they have recently added a number of volunteers.
Targeted at kids and families that do not have the means to partake in golf, prospective golfers are identified confidentially through the local schools.
To raise the money required to continue the program, this year the group will host two golf tournaments with the goal of raising about $9000. One will be held in May 16th and the other will be September long weekend both at the Prescott Golf Club who is giving full support to the initiative.
“The positives are just endless,” says Prescott Golf Club Board member Tom Hare. “Some of those kids have talents and skills that they are not even aware of.”
Decksheimer says they have seen massive positive changes in the kids enrolled in how they act. To further that he hopes they can create a template that provided benefits beyond Prescott alone.
“We’re trying to create a model that might be able to be used on other communities. We really need to help raise our kids to responsible an they’re no better place to do it than the golf course.”