In so many ways, sports are a microcosm of life.
Competition in the athletic arena develops a drive to succeed. It compels us to be our best, and always strive to be better. Winning teaches us how to be gracious, while dealing with defeat and disappointment is a poignant lesson in learning how to overcome adversity.
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The First Tee of Aurora and Fox River Valley uses the sport of golf to impart life's lessons. Since the mid-1990s, the Fox Valley Park Foundation has partnered with The First Tee to help build a better tomorrow for the next generation.
Those efforts will continue in earnest on June 25 when the 18th annual Golf for Kids Benefit Golf Outing is held at Orchard Valley Golf Course, Aurora.
Considering what each golfer receives, the $175 entry fee will feel like a bargain. Sandwiched around 18 holes of golf (with electric cart) is a continental breakfast, buffet lunch and dinner at Orchards Restaurant. Each golfer also will receive a stylish tee gift -- Cutter and Buck pullover for men or fine gauge knit vest for women.
Golfers also will be able to bid via silent auction for two tickets to the Ryder Cup in September; the tickets are good for all six days of the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. Also, the driving range at Orchard Valley will host a demo of Nike equipment for golfers to test for free.
The day also will include team awards, special hole competitions, putting contest, door prizes and raffle drawings -- with one lucky golfer winning free golf and cart for an entire year at Orchard Valley.
But mostly, Golf for Kids is exactly that -- for the kids. The First Tee makes the game accessible to kids of all backgrounds and demographics, teaching them important values such as self-management, goal-setting and decision-making. Like golf, these skills last a lifetime.
The nine core values imparted onto First Tee participants are the pillars to character development, not just for the children, but for those whose lives they will ultimately impact: respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, judgment, honesty, integrity and sportsmanship.
"The First Tee is so much more than learning to hit a golf ball," said Dan Abella, executive director of The First Tee of Aurora and Fox River Valley. "Golf provides the backdrop to teach life skills and values that provide kids a strong foundation for the future."
More than 1,100 children are enrolled in the program this summer. In the fall and winter, The First Tee makes outreach efforts through 40 schools in Aurora, Montgomery, North Aurora and Oswego, involving upward of 10,000 youth.
As with a great golf shot, helping kids leaves a lingering glow. But it's so much more than a memory. It's a magical feeling, for helping young children achieve a better life is the accomplishment of a lifetime.
Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. For details on how to become involved in the Golf for Kids Benefit Golf Outing, call (630) 966-4516 or visit foxvalleyparkdistrict.org.