I’ve been lucky through the years of writing Why CLE? to get to know a bit about The First Tee of Cleveland. This summer, Jeffrey is old enough to participate in their Mighty Mites program, too.
Jeffrey is loving the time spent outside with other kids learning a new sport. I’m loving that The First Tee of Cleveland was able to come up with a safe, but still fun and engaging, program that not only teaches sports skills, but also life lessons like respect, confidence, and responsibility.
I had the chance to sit down with Pat LoPresti, Executive Director of The First Tee of Cleveland, and Brian McFarland, Program Director, to learn more about the organization and their own journeys to it. You don’t get much more different than each of their paths to The First Tee, but what is common is their love for and dedication to the organization.
Pat has been at The First Tee of Cleveland for 10 years. Her background is in working for her family’s business: A. LoPresti & Sons, which is a name you probably recognize if you’re from the Cleveland area. After the economic downturn in 2008, the family business did not survive. Pat found herself wanting to do something impactful and give back to the community.
Although she was not a golfer, Pat found herself drawn to The First Tee’s curriculum of life skills and their method of encouraging analysis and self-reflection in the participants. She has used her management and leadership skills over the last ten years to help grow the organization and expand its network in the community.
Brian McFarland, or Coach Brian as he is known at The First Tee, is a lifelong golfer who started volunteering with The First Tee at age 18. He was immediately drawn in by the connections he made with the students and the chance to be a mentor for real, translatable skills through a sport that he already loved. After volunteering with and working at various The First Tee locations around the country, he returned to Cleveland to serve as Program Director for this chapter.
Coach Brian sees the COVID-19 pandemic as The First Tee’s biggest challenge, but also their best moment. The organization has been able to continue to offer programming with smaller groups, social distancing, and appropriate safety measures. Especially now, the opportunity for kids to get out, interact with peers and other adults, have fun, and learn is invaluable. The First Tee has even incorporated literacy and STEM elements into their curriculum to help bolster education and counteract the “COVID slide” that can happen with children’s literacy skills.
Both Pat and Brian have stories of participants who came to The First Tee needing a safe place to go, caring adults, and confidence. These participants learned to excel not only at the game of golf, but at the game of life with The First Tee’s Nine Core Values curriculum. They learned to problem-solve, find mentors they could rely on, and even become mentors for others.
The First Tee of Cleveland collaborates with many other youth programs in the community, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, as well as a partnership with Washington Park in the CMSD, all in an effort to positively impact as many youth in the community as possible.
Only 7% of The First Tee of Cleveland’s budget comes from participant fees, which are kept low to ensure access to the programming. The rest is made possible through donations and volunteer effort. One fun way you can give to The First Tee of Cleveland is by attending their 21st Annual Benefit on Thursday, August 13 at Top Golf.
From 8-11am, enjoy breakfast, coffee, open bar, raffles, and TopContender tournament play with awards and prizes. I’m told no golf experience is needed and if I’m playing you know you won’t come in last, so what do you have to lose?!
Top Golf is open-air and set up for proper social distancing, which will allow for a safe, as well as fun morning benefiting this great organization.
The First Tee of Cleveland is authentically committed to helping youth in our community learn, grow, and achieve in life through the game of golf. Learn more about The First Tee of Cleveland here and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
***Disclosure: In exchange for this post, I will receive one complimentary ticket to the 21st Annual Benefit. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***