MORE THAN A GAME
“I love golf. I love kids. I love the idea of creating a vehicle for change in our community.” That’s how Andrew Bennett, Executive Director of The First Tee of Western New York, sums up his passion for the organization.
If you aren’t familiar with The First Tee, Andrew hopes that changes soon—with some help from the Oishei Foundation. “Oishei originally funded our strategic plan, and our latest grant is to help implement it.” Part of that implementation focuses on getting their message out through new branding and marketing, as well as recruiting donors and volunteers.
So what does The First Tee of WNY offer young people? A safe environment, with caring adults. A chance to learn a sport they can enjoy for the rest of their lives, as well as healthy habits and strong values. An outlet to try new things, come out of a shell and build confidence while discovering it’s okay to fail.
The core philosophy of the international organization relates sports to life, with a focus on nine core values: responsibility, respect, honesty, perseverance, sportsmanship, judgment, confidence, courtesy and integrity. In other words, helping create good citizens first, golfers second.
“It’s also a way to bridge societal gaps,” notes Andrew. “When you see our kids interact on the course, you realize people are not born with prejudice; it’s learned—and it’s preventable.” Under his stewardship, the organization is reaching out to kids in need throughout the region, especially ones who are struggling in school, facing violent situations, or dealing with emotional challenges. A partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo is helping The First Tee of WNY make the program accessible for inner-city youth—and even providing transportation.
“From what we’ve seen, this program really changes lives. We have both personal stories and solid data that show its positive influence on the social and emotional well-being of young people.”