Combined, they have raised more than $100,000 for charity. They have dedicated countless hours to community service, and several of them have done so through the game of golf. One may wonder who these individuals are. Are they professional golfers with sponsorships? Businessmen?
While it may come as a surprise, they are teenagers who have given of themselves in their hometowns and beyond, becoming community leaders before they even have their driver’s license. They are the honorable mention recipients of the Presidents' Youth Leadership Award, which was created to recognize junior golfers who demonstrate leadership, character and community service through their involvement with the USGA-AJGA Youth Leadership Club.
This two-part series recognizes the young men and women for their community service. This phase tells the stories of the five individuals earning honorable mention honors. On Thursday, May 14, the boy and girl recipients of the 2009 USGA-AJGA President’s Youth Leadership Award will be highlighted.
For more information about the USGA-AJGA Presidents' Youth Leadership Award, call AJGA National Headquarters at (770) 868-4200.
Drew Johnson - Oak Ridge, N.C.
Charities need donations of time and money. Drew Johnson of Oak Ridge, N.C., has helped Special Olympics golfers with both. As an 8-year-old, Johnson began his volunteerism at the Carolina Learning Center by spending his evenings teeing up balls, fetching water and, perhaps most importantly, cheering on these golfers through their good and bad shots.
Six years later, at the age of 14, Johnson now coaches the Special Olympics Golf Team, but that is not the end. Over the past several years, Johnson has organized the “Drew Johnson Kids That Care Junior,” a junior golf tournament that benefits the Special Olympics golfers by helping with travel and equipment costs. Through his event, Johnson has raised more than $20,000 for this cause.
“The folks in the Special Olympics got a bad break in life,” Johnson writes. “Their balls took a cruel bounce, but they play their balls where they lie with smiles and happy hearts. We all should.”
Smith Brinker - Cincinnati, Ohio
What would you do if, two weeks after your golf team won a state title, you were told you most likely had a debilitating cancer that would end your golf career? This is the situation Smith Brinker of Cincinnati, was faced with in October of 2008. Luckily for Brinker, the tumor found in his pectoral muscle was benign, but the impressions that his doctors and other cancer patients made on him would not soon fade from his memory.
Of his experience at the hospital was born the idea for Champions Fore Cincinnati Children’s, a 54-hole golf marathon that was played in one day from sun up ‘til sun down. Brinker organized the event, solicited donations, and, to date, has donated more than $32,000 to a research project studying retinoblastoma, a form of childhood cancer that affects the eye.
“I’ve often wondered, ‘What could someone like me possibly do to make a difference?’” writes Brinker. “My experience at Cincinnati Children’s finally made it very clear: Share my story, ask for help, play a lot of golf. This clarity was yet another gift from the game of golf.”
Nicholas Schafer - Rocklin, Calif.
Speaking in front of a large audience and raising thousands of dollars worth of tools for Habitat for Humanity, all while playing as much golf as possible, is just another day for Nicholas Schafer of Rocklin, Calif. Schafer, who at the age of eight stood on a milk crate to address 500 people at the Rotary Club of Sacramento, has learned the valuable lesson of paying it forward.
Schafer began his volunteering at The First Tee of Greater Sacramento where he teaches core values and life skills to members of the local chapter. It was through The First Tee that he was given the opportunity to stand in front of the Rotary Club, and thus generate much-needed funds for the Sacramento chapter.
Most recently, Schafer has focused his efforts on Habitat for Humanity. He founded a Habitat for Humanity Club at his high school and has worked diligently to secure grants for the organization. He also organized a tool drive that collected more than $3,000 worth of tools.
Schafer has been able to accomplish a good bit through volunteerism by the age of 16, and one has to believe he has a strong future ahead of him.
“It is a great feeling when I can help someone or improve a situation and accomplish something of value,” Schafer writes. “Plus, when I am involved with people who are truly energized and excited about helping others, it motivates me to do more.”
Andrea "Ande" Brenckman - Willis, Texas
As a young woman who has been involved with the game of golf since the age of five, Andrea "Ande" Brenckman of Willis, Texas, has made a lifetime commitment to the game and is using the support systems within it to help others.
Since the age of 12, Brenckman has been volunteering and, alongside her mother, organizing charity golf events to benefit various charities, including her home club’s junior golf program and her high school team. Brenckman has even gone beyond her own school team to help fundraise for neighboring schools’ teams. Through these endeavors, more than $25,000 was allocated to golf scholarships for juniors at her club and local high schools.
Aside from monetary donations, Brenckman also gives of her time as a teacher for junior golfers at Walden Golf Academy and works as a volunteer at the Special Olympics Golf Tournament at Texas A&M, conducting a skills clinic and recruiting other junior golfers from the area to assit with the event.
“This sport transcends generations, genders, and geographic regions,” Brenckman writes. “In the future, I will continue giving back to my community through golf.”
Carina Cuculiza - Managua, Nicaragua
Carina Cuculiza of Managua, Nicaragua, has taken skills learned on the golf course and used them in her everyday life to foster a sense of community in her area. Cuculiza has been able to combine these life skills with her faith to make a positive impact on the children of her community.
At the age of 16, Cuculiza spends her spare time volunteering with multiple organizations through her school. The theme that seems to run through all of them is a desire to help impoverished children. From fundraising through an organization called Operation Smile, to spending her time teaching through “Cataquesis Sagrada Familia,” Cuculiza serves as a role model for children who may not have responsible adults in their lives. Cuculiza spends her time teaching these children to read and write.
Cuculiza says skills she has learned on the course, such as time management, discipline, patience and perseverance, are the same skills she uses daily in her volunteer efforts.
“I believe that both community service and golf have provided me opportunities to learn important skills that I will carry throughout my life,” Cuculiza writes. “These skills learned in golf have helped me in my volunteer efforts to help others and create a better community.”