The Robert M. Shapazian Child Life Center at Children's Hospital Central California installed a 9-hole putting green adjacent to its playground, and PGA Tour professional, Kevin Chappell, stopped by to help patients learn how to enjoy it.
“Can I show you a trick?” Chappell asked a 10-year-old oncology patient named Trenity. “See that line right there?” He pointed to the edge of the putter. “Wherever that line is pointing is where the ball is going to go.” She nodded, corrected the position of her putter and gave the ball a tap, sinking it on her first try. “We’ve got a golfer on our hands here!” Chappell called out as he held out his fist for Trenity to knock knuckles with him.
“She has leukemia,” said Trenity’s mother, Alicia Monsibais. “She was in remission for almost a year, but she relapsed and now she needs a bone marrow transplant.”
Young cancer patients like Trenity captured the hearts of Chappell and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Petrie, during a visit arranged by the Children's Hospital Central California Foundation last year. “They offered us a tour of the Hospital and we fell in love with the kids in oncology,” said Petrie.
Last Christmas instead of giving each other gifts, Chappell and Petrie delivered presents on Craycroft, the Hospital’s oncology unit. Today the couple is passionate about paving the way to even more contributions through the newly established Kevin Chappell Champion for Children’s oncology endowment
Chappell is enthusiastic about garnering widespread support for the endowment. “We golfers scratch each other’s backs, and I’m definitely sharing this with my peers on the PGA Tour,” said Chappell. He hopes to influence other donors as well, and invites contributions of any size.
“The big thrust that Kevin wants to make is that it’s not just for big donors,” said Ralph Cross, Jr., Chappell’s agent. “We’re encouraging people to go online and give $10 or even $5. That’s what endowments are all about – everyone comes together to help the kids.”
Cross arranged for Chappell to present a golf clinic of another sort at Fort Washington Country Club later that day. The founding members of the Kevin Chappell Champion for Children’s oncology endowment and their guests were invited to learn chipping and driving, as well as putting, at an event designed to launch the new fundraising endeavor.
“We already had 25 founding members before the official launch date,” said Chappell. “And we have until the end of the year to get more, so I’m hoping we can encourage others to get involved and give.”
Immediately following the clinic, founding members – who each gave a minimum contribution of $2,500 to the endowment fund – joined Chappell and staff from Children's Hospital Central California for dinner.
“It’s an opportunity for donors to meet doctors and others from Children’s. That’s important to me – very, very important to me,” said Cross, who plans to make the golf clinic an annual event for founding members. He emphasized the fact interested donors still have time to join. “We plan to ask everyone at the dinner to invite one more person each,” he said. “If we could do that – double the membership – we could raise quite a bit of money for the endowment.”
“Our next step is to expand our online presence with a blog to get the word out,” said Petrie, who also plans to use Twitter and other social media to invite the online community to contribute. “We’d love to feature stories on Kevin’s blog about patients, so people know who they’re helping,” she said.
During his recent visit to the Hospital, Chappell explained his motivation for partnering with oncology patients. “It’s about exposing the kids to what I do and exposing others to what these cancer patients go through.”
The children playing golf on the Hospital’s new putting green certainly enjoyed that exposure. With coaching from Chappell, 13-year-old Salvador dropped the ball into the hole on his second try. “Good job, Salvador,” cheered his mother, Isela Bugarin. “And he’s never played golf before.” She grinned with pride.
Chappell’s tenderness with the children endeared even the shiest patient, who eventually came forward in his Sponge Bob pajamas and carefully selected a brightly colored putter and golf ball.
“Let’s back up now and try it again from a little farther away,” Chappell said to the smallest participant. To help the little girl get a clear shot, he gently held up the tubing draping from bandages on her head to a medical device resting on a wheelchair that a Child Life specialist pushed along behind her.
After the mini clinic and before heading up to Craycroft to visit inpatients, Chappell stopped for an interview with ABC30. “Come check out the Hospital,” he said. “Come meet some patients; come meet some families. That’s how people will realize just how important this Hospital really is.”
Children's Hospital Central California thanks the following pioneers for supporting Kevin Chappell’s charity of choice.
Kevin Chappell’s Champion for Children's Founding Members:
- James Anderson
- Don Baker
- Mike and Midge Barr
- Dewey Belli
- Jim Burden
- Steve and Debbie Chappell
- Gerald Cross
- Ralph Cross
- Jim Enns, CPA
- Bill Hopkins
- Robert Johnson
- Matty Matoian
- Jim Meinert
- Dr. Greg Nalchajian
- Rob O'Rourke
- George Pappas
- Yrma Rico
- David Singh
- Dr. David Taylor
- David Thomas
- Tony Thompson
- Frank Vargas
- Dr. Vish
- Ted Waldron
- J. Scott and Tamara Workman