Who knew the versatility of golf rainsuits in this pandemic moment?
It turns out that, if necessary, they can be pressed into service as personal protective equipment for world’s front-line caregivers.
How this came to be is a winding journey that began with a simple phone call by a priest in the Chicago area. The Rev. Jim Swarthout serves as a director at AMITA Health, one of the largest health-care organizations in the country, with 320 sites in Illinois. Father Jimmy is not a golfer, but in a routine AMITA meeting about COVID-19, he learned that golf rainsuits, worn backward, could serve as suitable PPE. In fact, they could be worn again and again after proper cleansing.
Father Jimmy called his childhood friend, Steve Skinner, CEO of Kemper Sports Management, one of the leading golf-course operators in the country. Skinner drafted his colleague, Gary Binder, a 40-year PGA of America member who serves as an executive vice president at Kemper, to lead the effort. Binder reached out to Carrie Williams, the executive director of the Illinois PGA Section, as well as a senior sales executive for FootJoy.
Boom. Rain Suits For Responders was born. And it has huge national, perhaps even international, implications.
Why couldn’t every PGA Section in America replicate this idea? And, why might it not scale around the world, especially in Great Britain and Ireland, where serious golfers are more likely to own multiple rainsuits?
Williams has nearly 800 golf professionals in her section, and she wondered, how many old rainsuits do those members have? And how many rainsuits do they have in inventory that could be donated to AMITA Health in exchange for a tax write-off? And, how many golfers might those 800 members be able to reach out to, seeking old rainsuits or a simple cash donation?
The donation process is easy. A website – amitahealth.org/rainsuitsforresponders – has been established for donors to register their rainsuit shipment and receive a free FedEx shipping label by e-mail from AMITA Health within two business days. Once the rainsuit is packaged, donors can schedule a FedEx pickup at their home or drop off their donation package at a local FedEx facility. The Illinois PGA Foundation is committed to financially supporting the program by absorbing a portion of the shipping costs.
Alternatively, golfers can make cash contributions. FootJoy, a long-time partner of Kemper Sports, offered to sell a waterproof rainsuit for $100. All money raised in this manner will go toward purchasing this rainsuit and sending it on to AMITA Health.
This campaign launched on April 16 with a $10,000 donation from the Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation, a long-time partner of Kemper Sports, to provide the first 100 new FootJoy rain suits to the cause. Binder hopes to deliver 1,000 badly needed rain suits to the front lines.
Binder thought of this program as being one that would enable PGA of America members to get involved in a time of need. As he made his calls, he said, “No one said no. It’s just the game of golf and the people around it.”
It’s bigger than Illinois and AMITA Health. Health-care institutions across the country, indeed around the world, have the same PPE need. Why couldn’t every PGA Section in America replicate this idea? And, why might it not scale around the world, especially in Great Britain and Ireland, where serious golfers are more likely to own multiple rainsuits?
Golf steps up. It always has, it always will.
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