SUGAR GROVE, IL – The Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois is always working to expand its range of programming to include children from all walks of life when teaching the sport of golf. Two partnerships that support the Foundation’s vision, Giant Steps and the Freedom Golf Association (FGA), came together on Monday, March 26, to teach 13 lucky students from Giant Steps the fundamentals of golf.

Giant Steps is a certified therapeutic day school in Lisle, IL for children on the Autism spectrum, with a primary focus on providing educational, recreational, and therapeutic programs for elementary through high school students. Since 2013, the Foundation has been working with Giant Steps, using specially modified clinic set-ups to teach putting, chipping, and full-swing to their students.

For this clinic, the Kids Golf Foundation teamed up with adaptive coaches from the Freedom Golf Association.

“It was an honor and a pleasure to work alongside the Foundation Director and coordinators with our coaches to spread a sense of freedom to the participants from Giant Steps Program,” said Jonathan Snyder, the Adaptive Golf Director with the FGA. “You could see the joy in their smiles.”

Freedom Golf Association (FGA) is dedicated to bringing joy and a sense of freedom to the special needs community and wounded veterans through their inclusion in the game of golf. The goal of FGA is to deliver grassroots golf instruction to those with special needs, which is accomplished through collaboration with golf professionals, skilled amateurs, healthcare professionals, and local organizations. Together, they make adaptive golf available to all special needs individuals wanting to play.

“The Freedom Golf Association specifically focuses on the inclusion of special needs individuals in golf, something the Foundation also places an emphasis on, so it only made sense for our two organizations to join forces to grow the game,” said Michala Mika, the Foundation’s Director. “It’s all about introducing kids to a new opportunity, and watching them learn, grow, and have fun.”

During the hour-long clinic in Rich Harvest Farms’ Indoor Golf Arena, the Giant Steps’ students were divided into three groups, and rotated between learning how to putt, chip, and drive the ball. Dedicated instructors at each station provided valuable teaching, encouragement, and feedback. Giant Steps staff was on hand as well to offer support and insight for the students, as well as better tailor instruction to suit each students’ unique needs.

“The golf clinic was a wonderful experience for both our campers and staff,” said Karoline Kordalewski, the Rec Center Manager at Giant Steps. “FGA really took the time to get to know our campers. Their patience and smiles were extremely welcoming.”

The Foundation utilized SNAG (Starting New At Golf), colorful and oversized golf equipment that is easy to pick up and offers instant feedback for users with balls that stick to Velcro targets. From learning grip to scoring, SNAG equipment presents golf in an exciting and easy-to-understand way.

“It was amazing seeing the interaction between the students and the instructors,” said Ms. Mika. “The coaches from FGA were an incredible addition to our clinic and I am very excited to have them more involved with our programs. What was even more inspiring was seeing the smiles and interest the participants had in the activities.”

Besides learning golf, the students gained practice in several different areas, including communication, motor, and social skills—all while having fun.

“While watching our participants be part of the golf clinics, I personally have learned to appreciate that learning golf really is for anyone because it brings a sense of calmness, teaches patience, but also emphasizes building confidence,” said Kordalewski. “KGF has done a wonderful job with knowing what supports our participants need to help them follow a schedule, take turns and really take to the sport!”

The Kids Golf Foundation looks forward to continuing their partnerships with both Freedom Golf Association and Giant Steps to expand programming and provide more opportunities to learn the game of golf!