STORIES BY MINDY HERRICK

Final Project: Mindy’s Video Magazine With Joe Holden

Published December 13, 2020

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Final Project: Donation Drive Video

Published: December 13, 2020

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The First Tee of North Florida Gifts Children a Second Family

Published: Nov. 15, 2020

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The First Tee of North Florida offers classes for children on and off the golf course that teach the game of golf and life skills. There are between 40 and 45 classes a week across seven counties in Northeast Florida. These programs include classes at the golf course, school programs and community programs at Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCAs.

A First Tee coach with children at a golf class. Photo courtesy of The First Tee of North Florida.

The main program at The First Tee holds classes at a golf course. Parents sign up their children, ages 5 to 18, online and coaches teach the children. Each week, they learn about life skills and how to use them. Children also learn golf skills. They learn about putting, chipping and how to hit a golf ball through a variety of games and activities.

The school program features modified golf clubs and golf balls that P.E. teachers use in gym classes. Program Coordinator, Kyle Zugelter said,

“We just ask the P.E. teacher, if you teach basketball, whatever the sport may be, just teach our program for the same amount of time.”

 The teachers are provided these items at no cost and are trained to teach golf to students.

The community program is like the school program, except it is taught at a local Boys and Girls Club, YMCA or after-school program.

Despite being a national organization, The First Tee of North Florida is funded by their service area. The different types of funding include individual donors, board members, small and big businesses and events such as The Players Championship.

The Players Championship not only helps fund The First Tee, but it also gives students opportunities while the tour is in town. To help fundraise, there is a mock 17th hole set up, giving fans a chance to donate to the local organization and build awareness.

Older students in the program are given the chance to be an on-course reporter during The Players Championship. These students receive the same credentials and inside access just like a normal reporter – the students really enjoy it.

16-year-old Manyi Ngu has high regard for the program, saying she now has coaches and adults she can reach out to with questions about anything. 

While part of The First Tee, she plays on the Stanton College Preparatory School golf team but hasn’t decided if she wants to play golf in college. She wants to major in architecture and minor in fashion design and feels that she has a lot of support from mentors at The First Tee to help her reach her goals.

14-year-old Dominic Clayton has been in the program for six years and plans to play professional golf after high school and college. 

Dominic Clayton stands next to The First Tee of North Florida sign. Photo courtesy of Luann Brown.

His grandmother, Luann Brown also praises the program because it teaches children important life lessons.

Brown thinks it is important for the parents to attend the golf classes, as it can help parents encourage their children to use the nine core values outside of the class and golf.

The nine core values that are taught are respect, perseverance, courtesy, sportsmanship, judgment, responsibility, confidence, honesty and integrity.

If you would like to learn more about The First Tee of North Florida, please visit www.firstteenorthflorida.org.

K9’s For Warriors and Their Impact on Daily Lives

Published: December 8, 2020

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K9’s For Warriors (K9FW) is an organization based in Jacksonville, Florida that supports United States veterans after they return from the service. The organization pairs veterans with a dog to help with Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury and Military Sexual Trauma. As of October 2020, the foundation had rescued 1,247 dogs and graduated 647 Warrior-canine rescue teams. 

Shari Duval began the program in 2011 when her son came home struggling after serving several tours in Iraq. Upon his return home, he was working as a police officer with bomb dogs. His mother began to realize that he was more like himself when he was around dogs. 

Soon, the K9FW became involved with The PGA Tour and The Players Championship because of Shari’s connection. Shari is the wife of PGA Champions Tour player, Bobby Duval and mother of well-known PGA Tour player, David Duval. The organization receives a yearly grant from The Players Championship tournament chairman, called The Red Coats, said Tim Crosby, a former PGA Tour employee for over 20 years and now works with K9FW. Crosby said it is so fulfilling to be in a job that helps others. 

The grant helps K9FW name a dog after every Players’ Champion. Occasionally, the organization has the opportunity to introduce the dog to its namesake. 

Crosby will never forget when Rory McIlroy met Rory the dog.

The WGC Dell Technologies Match Play Championship has also named a dog after a champion, Dustin Johnson or DJ, and K9FW had the opportunity to introduce DJ the dog to a warrior in 2019. 

Eden Puente served the United States from 2003 to 2007. He was stationed in Kentucky and deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2005. 

When he got out of the military, he didn’t realize how much he was struggling and how much he needed help. His therapist recommended Puente get a service dog. When he came across K9FW, he quickly traveled to Florida for a few weeks to meet his new best friend. 

Eden Puente with Mr. Kim at the Jacksonville Zoo. Photo courtesy of K9’s For Warriors..

Puente was paired with Mr. Kim, named after the 2017 Players Champion, Si Woo Kim. Puente said it was fortuitous to have this opportunity because he is an avid golfer himself. He said golf has helped him cope. Mr. Kim helps make Puente feel comfortable on the golf course and has also been the first service dog at many courses.

Greg Wells, the manager of programs at K9FW is an Army veteran. Wells deals with the relationship between veterans and the program. He helps with the application process, pairing the dogs with warriors and customer relations after the pairing. He said his favorite part about K9FW is being able to see the difference the organization makes in both the dogs’ and the warriors’ life. 

Greg Wells with his service dog, Utah. Photo Courtesy of K9’s For Warriors.

As a graduate himself on the program 2015, Wells can attest to the difference his dog has made in his life. After not believing in the power of a service dog, he applied and received Utah, a mutt from the Jacksonville Humane Society. 

Wells said he appreciates how open the program is to help other organizations. 

“It’s all about putting more leashes in more hands and saving more dogs and more people,” said Greg. They hope to help complete other organizations, and not compete with them. 

For more information and how you can get involved, please visit k9sforwarriors.org.