Non-Profit Spotlight: First Tee – Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky
We are excited to feature First Tee of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky as February’s Non-Profit Spotlight. Charmian Wilkinson, Development Coordinator, explained the organization’s mission and how it serves the community.
When did the organization start and by whom?
First Tee began in 1997 as a partnership among the LPGA, the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, the PGA TOUR, and the USGA to make golf affordable and accessible for all kids. As they introduced the game, focusing on its inherent values and skills, they recognized the meaningful personal growth and impact this program brought to youth, both on and off the course Now, for over two decades we’ve been committed to helping kids build character strengths and important life skills through the game and providing all kids with access to opportunities for personal growth in a fun and safe environment.
First Tee has grown its network to deliver programs in all 50 United States and select international locations. In 2016, First Tee brought character education through the game of golf to more than 5.3 million young people.
In 2005, First Tee – Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky was founded by Larry Kellem, Tom and Melissa Briner, and Lamar Johnson along with an enthusiastic Board of Trustees. Together they raised start-up money and piloted a summer class session for 25 students. By year end, we had earned Chapter status in First Tee’s national network and announced our “grand opening” with the support of First Tee CEO Joe Louis Barrow Jr. and former LPGA Commissioner Charlie Mechem.
Today, more than 11,000 area children participate each year in our Life Skills classes at area golf courses, in our School Program held during PE classes at area elementary schools, and through our Community Programs at youth centers and in partnership with other youth-serving organizations in our community.
What makes your organization stand out among others?
There are a lot of programs out there aimed at teaching youth the game of golf. But what makes First Tee – Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky unique, is the life skills curriculum that is seamlessly integrated with the golf instruction. The game of golf’s rules and etiquette lends itself as the perfect platform to reinforce the values and life-skills being taught at home and at school. First Tee builds experiences that build character. We talk about how to deal with conflict, how to reach your goals, the value of diversity and how to plan for your future. Kids become a better version of themselves when they have the space to be who they are, surrounded by passionate people who guide them to see what they are capable of. We believe in developing experiences that are just as fun as they are meaningful, where kids feel excited to grow, safe to fail, and better equipped for whatever comes their way next.
We build these opportunities and experiences through…
- 100+ volunteers
- 646 kids at six area golf courses
- 41 School program partners
- 500+ kids in community programs
- A progressive curriculum that focuses on social and emotional learning objectives through activities that are developmentally appropriate
- Multi-level coach training programs that focus on research-proven methods of positive youth development, providing our coaches with the tools to make kids feel safe, included, and empowered.
- An annual slate of advanced national participant opportunities that facilitate growth and inspire personal transformation.
- A college scholarship program that provides tuition assistance, personal and professional development, and mentorship for First Tee alumni.
What are the greatest needs of the organization?
Earlier this year we announced that our service area is growing! Previously our service area included Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties in Kentucky and Hamilton and Clermont counties in Ohio. Now, we are expanding to Butler and Warren counties in Ohio!!! Serving 7 counties is a big undertaking and we are in need of volunteer coaches at all locations, especially during the summer when weather and daylight allows us to hold a lot of classes. Golf experience is not required…just a willingness to step up as a positive role model and mentor to the kids in our community.
How many kids do you impact each year?
More than 11,000 area kids and teens participate each year in our Life Skills classes at area golf courses, in our School Program held during PE classes at area elementary schools, and through our Community Programs at youth centers and in partnership with other youth-serving organizations in our community.
Who do you assist? Why?
We believe that our youth are our community’s greatest assets. With the belief that all kids deserve the chance to grow in a supportive environment with mentors guiding them, we are dedicated to building programs that are accessible, welcoming, and as impactful as they are fun.
Our curriculum extends beyond the golf course, which is why we hold programs to meet kids where they spend time. We partner with recreation centers and Boys and Girls Clubs to bring the program to life where kids spend their time. We partner with PE teachers who teach our curriculum in their PE classes to reach kids in their schools. We also partner with Special Olympics, Autism Society and other youth development programs throughout the area so that we can bring our program to all kids. We want to be inclusive and deliver this curriculum to all kids, regardless of financial status or disability.
How can people get involved with the organization?
Volunteer! We provide a meaningful and flexible opportunity to help youth in our community. If you love kids and have a heart to help them succeed, you would be a great fit to volunteer with us. No golf experience needed!
We also offer companies the chance for employees to give back to the community in a fun, meaningful, and rewarding way while taking a break from their day-to-day responsibilities. We offer a flexible schedule to meet your company needs.
Equipment Donation! Do you have an old set of golf clubs packed in the basement or corner of your garage? Donating equipment is another way to help support our First Tee chapter. Our greatest need is always golf clubs, youth size clubs especially, but there are countless items that would benefit our classes. Do you belong to a club that might be sprucing up their tee box markers or getting new flags for the practice green? Ask if you can send them our way!
Donations. We have two major fundraisers each year. The large ones, our annual golf outing and our 100 Holes of Golf Marathon, each have availability for sponsorships. Please reach out with any questions you may have about this opportunity.
Young people in our programs are…
- More confident in school
- Supported by coaches, who they view as caring mentors
- Active community members
- Always welcome, regardless of financial circumstances
What parents are saying:
“First Tee gave (my daughter) confidence and helped her learn how to set goals and dream big. She met great kids and coaches. She always says it feels like home to her.”
“First Tee is always amazing… They are loving and kind and offer our son many opportunities for growth in golf and life skills… they challenge him to be better… and show they believe in him as a leader which helps him believe in himself!”
First Tee Alumnae:
“First Tee was like a family. I was inspired to be my best self, and received the support and encouragement I needed to help me succeed. Thanks to First Tee, I learned about various resources that helped me in both golf and life – if it weren’t for the program, I may never have received the opportunities I did! I had incredible role models, and built confidence that made me feel like I could accomplish anything.
We encourage you to follow our social media account on Facebook @firsttee.gcnky
Visit our Website: firstteegcnky.org
Charmian Wilkinson, Development Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
First Tee Mission: We exist to enable kids to build the strength of character that empowers them through a lifetime of new challenges. By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with life skills curriculum, we create learning experiences that build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that kids carry to everything they do.