Children and families from Community PedsCare enjoyed a morning of games and a visit from PGA Tour players last week at TPC Sawgrass, as the PGA Tour Wives Association, the Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation and THE PLAYERS Championship hosted them for the annual “These Kids Can Play” event.
Held during the May 9 practice round prior to the tournament, the event was intended to serve as a fun-filled distraction for the kids, many of whom are dealing with life-limiting or life-threatening injuries and diseases. The morning concluded with THE PLAYERS Championship and event sponsor EverBank each presenting donations of $30,000 to Community PedsCare. Tabitha Furyk, who served as the event’s chairperson, said following the check presentation that they are just happy to help.
“It’s so special for these families that have come year after year,” she said with a tear in her eye. “You think about the challenges they deal with every day, and the fact that you can put something together like this that’s so special is really quite an honor to be able to do.”
Face painting, selfies with Ponte Vedra High School drama students dressed as superheroes, animals from the Jacksonville Zoo and a simulation of TPC Sawgrass’ 17th island green were among the activities and attractions enjoyed by the children and their families at the event’s 18 different “holes” or stations. While immersed in the fun, attendees also had the opportunity to meet PGA Tour players Jim Furyk and Kevin Kisner, as well as the wives of many other players who helped orchestrate the event.
“The PGA Tour Wives Association’s mission is to help needy children and their families,” said Jennifer Perry, executive director of the organization. “In the different tournament markets around the country, that’s what we try and do, and this is very near and dear to our heart.”
Kristen Monger, who attended the event with her disabled son and daughter, said the event provides her children with a day away from the doctor and the ultimate stress that often characterizes their lives. As for Community PedsCare, she said the program is a “life support” for her family.
Run by Community Hospice & Palliative Care, Community PedsCare provides pediatric, palliative hospice services to approximately 165 children in the Northeast Florida area. Established in 2001, it is one of only a few community pediatric programs in the nation offering both palliative and hospice care. Working in collaboration with Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Nemours Children’s Specialty Care and the University of Florida-Jacksonville, Community PedsCare provides kids and their families with support as the children progress through different levels of care settings, with services including counseling and spiritual support, music and pet therapy, parent support groups, respite care and more.
Community Hospice & Palliative Care Vice President of Community Engagement John Erstling explained that the annual event at THE PLAYERS Championship provides the children with exposure to the game of golf, which is an opportunity he said they may not otherwise have. Overall, he said These Kids Can Play is one of the more exciting events of the year for the children, allowing them to simply play and be like their peers.
“Whatever it is they’re battling, either medically or clinically, that’s a nuisance for them,” said Erstling. “This event is just a great time to see them behaving like kids. It’s a celebration.”