Mission Monday ~ First Tee impact story

I realize that I have already done a spotlight on First Tee last spring. I don’t usually do repeats, because there are so many great organizations out there to talk about! However, when Community Impact Coordinator, Lauren Graziano brought this story to my attention, I felt like I needed to share it. Especially since the organization is often misunderstood.

First Tee is a youth development organization that enables kids to build the strength of character that empowers them through a lifetime of new challenges. By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with a life skills curriculum, they create active learning experiences that build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that kids can carry to everything they do.

This past summer, a young First Tee participant named Levi helped the team truly see the impact of First Tee’s youth programs and how important the mentorship First Tee coaches offer really is. The story is told from the coach’s perspective.

Levi is full of life, laughter, positivity, and so enthusiastic about everything he does. At First Tee, we only
see him on the golf course, but I had thought that was his personality in all aspects of life. The way he
encourages those around him is truly amazing. Even when his golf opponents hit a bad shot, Levi is
always cheering them on and encouraging them to do better on the next shot.

Little did I know, Levi is battling severe depression. His dad approached me while Levi was playing golf
and thanked me sincerely for the programs and camps we offer at First Tee and especially for all the
amazing coaches who have helped Levi throughout his golf career. His dad continued to tell me that
they have been taking Levi to counseling and therapy for severe depression and suicidal thoughts. He
said that when Levi steps onto a golf course that his whole mentality changes. Golf has been the one
thing to keep him stable and excited for life. His dad also said that Levi has mentioned my name
numerous times during therapy and that he feels so happy while he is golfing at First Tee and that he
loves his golf coaches.

While his dad was telling me this, I had a knot in my throat and a pit in my stomach. I never in a million
years would have known what Levi was going through if his dad had not told me this. Although my heart
aches so badly for Levi, I am filled with more passion and drive than ever before. It helped me realize
that what we do at First Tee is so much more than golf. These true-life moments, the impacts First Tee is
making outside of golf through the mentorship coaches provide is the heart of our mission. I am so
honored that I get be Levi’s happy place. And that he feels joy, excitement, and safe at First Tee.

If you would like to get involved as a volunteer, donor, mentor, or just want to learn more, go to their website. You can also reach out to Emily Smith, Director of Golf and Education.

Kim Stewart

Kim is a mom, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of nonprofits and small businesses.

Mission Monday ~ Sarah’s Home

Over 300,000 children are trafficked in the United States every year. This isn’t a “somewhere else” problem, it’s right here in our communities. 85% of children rescued were born in the US and the average age of children when they are trafficked is 11 or 12. This is a huge and devastating problem that requires multiple approaches to combat it. Here in Colorado, Sarah’s Home is fighting the problem by serving rescued girls and helping them in their recovery.

Sarah’s Home provides sanctuary for girls ages 12 to 18 to help them realign with the life they were meant to have. In addition to being a residential facility, services include an accredited school catered and individualized for each girl, mental health support, medical, vision, and dental care. A mentoring component teaches girls how to have healthy and trusting relationships with adults. Girls are taught life and relationship skills. In addition, for kids who have had their childhoods stolen from them, they are given the opportunity to have fun and be kids again.

Currently this organization is in the process of developing and opening Daniel Academy. Approximately 35% of children rescued from trafficking are boys. Community Engagement Coordinator, Jillian Winters, tells me that they believe theirs will be the only facility in the country serving boys recovering from trafficking. In order to meet this tremendous need they have received a donation of land and are currently in a season of growth and evolution as they figure out this next challenge.

I asked Jillian what they wished more people knew about Sarah’s Home. Her reply was focused on the problem. She would like to see more awareness of sex trafficking. The more people know, the smaller the world becomes for sex traffickers. Education is not the primary focus of Sarah’s Home; however, they work to empower people to be part of the solution through education. Ideally they would love to be forced to close their doors because there is no longer a need.

There are many ways that you can get involved. Check here for upcoming trainings to learn more about the problem and what to look for. You can also host a Fireside Chat to educate you and your friends or family. And if you would like to financially support the work of Sarah’s Home or Daniel Academy you’ll find a variety of opportunities here.

Mission Monday ~ Cool Science

Cool Science is all about making science – actually Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math (STEAM) – cool for kids; just like sports, music and art!  They do this by traveling throughout Colorado, bringing their unique blend of cool demonstration shows and hands-on STEAM activities to elementaries, middle schools, and libraries. 

Driven by a desire for community involvement, this nonprofit organization was started in 2002 by an Intel employee. As leadership and partnerships have changed, Cool Science has evolved. Currently a staff of 1-2 run the operations, engaging many volunteers in program delivery. Programming includes demonstration shows, hands-on labs, and science nights/STEAM nights at over 200 schools and libraries per year. The hallmark event for this agency is the Colorado Springs Cool Science Festival. This 9-day event takes place in the fall attracting over 15,000 participants with more than 70 activities for all ages. 

What differentiates Cool Science from many other groups is that their leaders and key volunteers are actual scientists, engineers, and educators. These professionals give of their time because they know the value of exposing children to STEAM education. Improving creativity, collaboration, problem solving, and confidence are just a few of the benefits. Best of all, Cool Science programming is provided at a very low cost or free. Schools are never turned away because of an inability to pay.

Marc Straub has led Cool Science as the Executive Director since 2015. Even though they have been doing this important work for over 20-years, Marc still doesn’t feel like people really know much about them. As an agency working to develop our future leaders, they would like to expand the awareness of Cool Science. 

Increased visibility would help with their biggest challenge of volunteer recruitment. Cool Science is always seeking “science confident” volunteers who enjoy interacting with kids to assist with program delivery. In addition, they are currently looking to grow their Board. Skills that would help advance their cause include public relations, communications, marketing, and event planning. To learn more or get involved click here or email Marc directly.