It’s been a little over a month since Martin Kaymer won the PLAYERS Championship held annually at TPC Sawgrass. Though avid golf fans definitely exist here at the beaches, the four-day tournament fulfills for many their so-called “golf-fix” for the remainder of the year. However, there are those that just can’t get enough, and what better way to keep golfing than by volunteering. Every summer, the Junior PLAYERS Championship and the foundation Healing Every Autistic Life (HEAL) partner with Help Us Golf (HUG), founded by Jared Kogos, and the TPC Sawgrass Tour Academy to host a summer golf camp for individuals with autism.
Participants at the three day HUG/HEAL junior golf camp practice putting on Monday, chipping on Tuesday and full-swings on Wednesday. Other coordination skill activities include an obstacle course, a stadium course nature scavenger hunt and a chance at hitting a ball on the famed island green at hole 17. According to Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, Autism and its varying spectrum can be characterized by complex disorders that exhibit difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. HEAL’s co-founder, Leslie Weed, simply but adequately describes autism as “a foreign language.”
The HUG/HEAL golf camp is taught by PGA professionals and is free of charge to participants due to the various fund raising events held by HEAL throughout the year such as a Zoo Walk in April and the Great Ponte Vedra Paddle in September. These events not only allow for the HUG/HEAL golf camp, but also make it possible for those with autism to enjoy surf camp with Surfers for Autism, Peer to Pier Fishing in Jax Beach and Bowling Buddies at Beach Bowl without worrying about the costs. Though many of these opportunities come with volunteers, there is always a need for more. To find out the ways you can volunteer year round, visit www.healautismnow.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 904-716-4198.