Many professional golfers have a charity that means something special to them. Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post gets behind the scenes with Australian Robert Allenby to see how he does his part to help seriously ill children. Allenby lost his own mother to kidney cancer at the start of 2009 and wears a pink shirt in her memory now on Sundays at PGA Tour events.
Allenby got involved in an Australian charity, Challenge Cancer Support Network, almost 20 years ago to help a friend whose fund-raising tournament wasn't raising much in the way of funds. Allenby says the group has raised more than $12.5 million since then, thanks to Robert Allenby Golf Day in Melbourne.Some college golfers got a small taste of charity work recently that is also worth noting. Sean Martin blogged on Golfweek.com about how the University of San Diego men's golf team, coached by Tim Mickelson (yes, his brother is that Mickelson), got a humbling look at reality when it won the Mardi Gras Invitational at TPC Louisiana in suburban New Orleans.
The Challenge was established to give children living with cancer and other life-threatening blood disorders the opportunity to experience life, to use Allenby's word, as an "adventure." Every
other year, Allenby, who lives in Jupiter, welcomes a group of kids into his home and his family's life. There are stops on the way — Las Vegas was a big hit — and golf, of course, and shopping and sightseeing
and even fishing aboard Allenby's own C'mon Aussie on the Atlantic Ocean.
"To see the look on the kids' faces when they hook something really is extraordinary," Allenby said. "Maybe they forget just for a little while everything they have to deal with on a regular
basis. It's an escape.
"A lot of them are away from their parents for the first time, too, which can be interesting to watch. But they're such a joy to be around. My bit is easy. Their bit is what's difficult. We're trying to put a smile on the face of a child who is facing the prospect of death. It's so hard to take when we hear about
someone who has visited us who has passed away. But there's a reward when you hear from a parent who writes or calls to say they've never seen their son or daughter happier than when they were talking about the trip."
And so the Allenbys and Challenge cull thousands of applications from children who dream of... living
Two days before the tournament, the Toreros spent five hours building a
house for Habitat for Humanity.
"As we left from building the house, that was my proudest moment as a coach," said Tim Mickelson. "It was a really good experience for the guys, and in return, a family got a house."
The New Orleans trip replaced the team's annual trip to Hawaii. Mickelson had his team watch a 45-minute video on Hurricane Katrina before the trip. After the tournament's practice round, Mickelson drove
his team through the Lower Ninth Ward. It was one of the hardest-hit areas of the city.
"It had a lasting impact in that they now realized how bad (Katrina) truly was," Mickelson said. "I had a couple guys say, 'Thank you for letting us do that.' "