“Help change the world, teach a kid to putt” ~ promotional statement from E.D.G.E. (Educational Disc Golf Experience)
Sometimes you can never say it better if someone has already said it perfect the first time. This statement from E.D.G.E. epitomizes many things about disc golf and why I love our sport.
As an avid promoter of disc golf and player when I get the chance (no one ever gets to truly play enough), I am always looking for opportunities to help the community, grow our sport, and help others like kids learn about the fun that our sport holds.
As a board member of the Austin, Texas Waterloo Disc Golf Club I recently took on a project that would help qualify that statement from E.D.G.E. and I hope it will change the world, by teaching kids to putt; one kid at a time.
In a happenstance chance of fate, Mike had learned that the Austin Children’s Shelter (ACS) new location in East Austin had many outdoor amenities at their location, but they were for kids of young ages. The facility had playgrounds for toddlers and elementary school aged children, but nothing notable for pre-teens or older kids to do. With this observation, it struck upon him: Why not install a disc golf basket? This could provide kids and staff that extra benefit of an activity to keep them busy and relieve any stresses from the day. It would be perfect!
This was a great observation, my sympathy for their needs, and the mission focus of the Waterloo Disc Golf Club was willing to help.
To understand the deeper need that this basket could provide, you must know the purpose of the Austin Children’s Shelter.
Their mission is that “Austin Children’s Services protects and heals children, young adults and families in need.” [ACS mission statement quote]
With an amazing ability like that, there is always a need to de-stress and relax from the worries of the day; for the children, for the families, and for the staff at the facility.
Within a small amount of time I contacted the ACS and developed a working relationship with their community relations coordinator, Lindsay Contreras.
This was the first time that they had ever worked with a project like this, so it was “different” for them, but nothing they were not willing to work with.
Lindsay was an overall great steward for the project by getting the internal agreements and support, appointments with the maintenance/grounds persons, and answering many of the questions a project like this entails. Her support and trust was invaluable.
Simultaneously as I coordinated the activity at the ACS, I worked with Gordon and Mike as they worked their own resources and tapped into their personal experiences to help gather the needed supplies, contacts, and materials to keep the project moving.
This may be a single basket installation, but its priority was high for us and the location was “sensitive” in nature. We simply could not just show up to work on it like at a public park.
To protect the children’s environment, and respect the security of the location, we needed to coordinate visits/work and do our best to not interrupt the staff’s limited availability and schedules.
Not to be thwarted by such protocols, we continued forward and worked in a timely manner over a few months to get the site surveyed, verified, prepped, setup, and the basket installed.
The tasks needed for this “simple” project were:
– locate a basket and coordinate any needed repairs
– utilize Eco-friendly techniques for the installation (heavy duty sprinkler collar/cover,
base padding, mulch, etc.) so that if the basket needs to be removed for any reason the
basket mount will be safe from causing possible injuries
– provide an Innova DISCatcher Traveler basket that could be used during inclement
weather or indoor play times
– locate an artist to create a dedication marker for the site
– collect about 50 new lightweight putters for donation
In the end, we were able to complete all of the items off of the list and exceed the needs for the installation. All items were fulfilled from the great Austin, TX disc golf community. Deep in the heart of Texas our disc golf hearts are bigger; everything in Texas is bigger!
For the basket, people pitched in to transport it back and forth, clean it up, fix welds and brackets on it, and ensure the locking collars were perfect.
For the base location we were able to utilize a heavy duty sprinkler housing with lid that would allow it to be safely covered if the basket is removed. This prevents sprained ankles, etc. Around the base we used a durable thick porous padding to protect the soil from “dig outs.” It will last many years as people step on it and pivot to retrieve their discs without digging out the ground.
For the traveler basket it was donated from the Waterloo Disc Golf Club inventory
For the marker a great local disc golfer, Joseph “JoJo” Thompson, stepped up and offered his skills and materials
For the putters, container, and other supplies many disc golfers, disc golf and sports equipment businesses donated greatly.
When it came to the day of installation, it was overcast and rainy, but the area was filled with bright smiles when the kids learned what we were doing and when we placed the basket in the ground.
Soon thereafter, the container of discs was opened and the kids instinctively knew what they were for.
They immediately started throwing the discs to each other. The kids were happy and excited, then one curiously exclaimed “Are these are for us?”
I replied (along with some others) “Yes and you can keep them.”
“Awesome! We can KEEP them!” resounded with more laughs and smiles from the kids, the disc golf volunteers, and the ACS staffers.
With all of the discs and fun flying around, the great epiphany of the day occurred when we stepped into the fun fray of flying plastic and showed them “how” to use them with the basket that we just installed. [silence and watchful eyes focused on us]
A few of us stepped up, threw a few putts into the chains to show them how the basket stops the discs, explained the concept, and marked the ground for them to give it a try…
Then, at that moment, a second level of amazement was instantly achieved. We opened a whole new world to them. We couldn’t do anything but smile big and experience the raw joy of kids playing and having fun.
This was something they have NEVER experienced and us few that were there, we saw it all in its entirety.
Soon there after, the sounds of ringing chains permeated the air accompanied by the phrase “Did you see that?! …I MADE IT!“ [Yes, I did see that (smiling)]
There are not many times in your life that you get to experience a raw unfiltered moment of joy with kids, I think as adults we forget this, but on this day we all saw it. It was like a Christmas morning for everyone.
Looking back on this day, I really do hope that we change the world from teaching these kids to putt. With the trials and tribulations that some of these kids and families go through, they need the joy of play in their life.
We will never know what led them to need the services of the Austin Children’s Shelter, but they deserve a little play time, they deserve a little disc golf, and they do deserve to change their own world one putt at a time.
May the sound of chains from disc golf baskets ring throughout their life and may those sounds always remind them of the joy they felt on that day and every other time they played disc golf.
Play It Forward
Thanks are well deserved.
This installation will last for many years to come, but NONE of this could have been possible without the disc golf community and the kind staff at the Austin Children’s Shelter.
Thanks for this project go to…
For the wide variety of the 50 putters that the ACS was given for the kids, they were donated by the Waterloo Disc Golf Club, local disc golf and sports equipment businesses (Disc Nation and Play it Again Sports) as well as several club members (Troy Herman, Rich Harpel, and Bert Lirette).
The custom dedication stone was engraved by hand by local disc golfer Joseph “JoJo” Thompson. The Waterloo Disc Golf Club purchased the materials and tools while “JoJo” donated all of his time, his energy, and his great artistic skill.
Others who have contributed greatly to the project are Mike Olse, Dale Gibbins, Damon Neth, Jeremy Grange, Phil Haik, and Gordon Maxim-Kelley.
**Special Note** Usually I include links to pictures or pictures from the event, but that was not done for this post. Due to safety and privacy concerns none of the children or staff (other than Lindsay) were documented or photographed. We wish them all the best and I hope to meet some of those kids one day and learn that they got their first disc golf experience from the work we put in. That would be awesome. ~~Troy