WEST PALM BEACH — There were lots of strokes at Palm Beach Children’s Hospital on Wednesday — golf strokes.
Part of St. Mary’s Medical Center, the children’s hospital is one of five in South Florida that PGA teaching pros visit each week, to give the young patients lessons and break the monotony of stays that can last days or months.
Leukemia patient Tristin Calkins, 8, for example, was perfecting his putting and driving with oversized clubs and tennis balls. A smile crossed his lips when one shot hit a photographer.
He’s been coming to the hospital on and off since 2013 and is about a month away from a bone marrow transplant from his six-year-old brother, said his mother, Lindsay Patterson. He looks forward to playing golf “every time we’re here,” she said.
Hospital CEO Gabrielle Finley-Hazle said the golf sessions serve a larger purpose. “Part of their healing is to play, to have fun, to laugh,” she said.
Brittany Williams, clinical coordinator for Child Life, said the hospital provides daily activities for children who are in bed and those able to get around, to prepare them emotionally for medical procedures. “We work with the kids on their level and do a lot through play, because kids communicate through play,” she said.
Dave Pesacov, the local PGA pro giving lessons Wednesday, said he’s been helping out through PGA’s “Smiles for Life” program for nearly three years, at the hospital and at Quantum House, a residence for patients’ families, next to the hospital.
“I spend every Wednesday, from 1:30 to 3:30 at St. Mary’s and 3:30 to 4:30 at Quantum House, he said.
“It’s just giving what I can be good at to someone who’s going through a tough time and getting them to have their own good feeling. I get my food feeling when I see they’re having a good time, when they get that one shot that’s perfect, whatever it is that makes them happy, when a kid hits the bulls-eye and his face lights up….”
A girl came Wednesday in a wheelchair, who just wanted to throw the ball, Pesacov said. “She was throwing and she was laughing and joking. You’e got a kid who can’t get out of a wheelchair and she’s laughing and joking. It’s using golf to create a good feeling for kids going through a tough time. …They’re not having having much fun otherwise.”
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