If you follow golf, you inevitably know the names Kate and Justin Rose. He’s an international golf sensation; the 2013 U.S. Open champ, and a fan favorite on the PGA and European tours alike. She’s the bright, engaging English beauty—a former competitive gymnast and past director of the PGA TOUR Wives Association board—oft captured in tournament cutaways, smiling and cheering her husband on.
But, what you probably don’t know is the good that this power couple is doing for underprivileged children in their adopted home of Orlando, Florida. Through the Kate & Justin Rose Foundation, they’re “feeding hungry tummies and curious minds;” improving children’s lives through nutrition, education and “experiences” that expose kids to the positives and possibilities in life.
The Foundation started back in 2009, when Kate and Justin moved to Orlando, Florida; and learned that many area children didn’t have enough to eat. Although, as athletes, the couple understood the correlation between food and performance, the real ‘aha’ moment came when they had children of their own.
“When you have a child, you immediately see the effect of food on behavior. It really opened our eyes—the impact is so obvious. If you’re late with a child’s bottle, there’s a meltdown,” said Kate Rose, president of the Kate & Justin Rose Foundation. “We are lucky in that we can meet our children’s needs. But, we started thinking about how stressful it must be for parents who aren’t that fortunate—and we wanted to do something to help.”
The Foundation teamed up with Blessings in a Backpack, an organization that provides food for elementary school-age children who would otherwise have little to no food to eat on weekends during the school year. Justin, himself, founded the Birdies for Blessings program, in which he donates $100 to the cause, matched by Zurich, every time he makes a birdie.
The Roses also work with an organization called BookTrust to provide books to children from low-income families. What’s unique is that the children get to choose their own books and keep those books in their own personal libraries. In many cases, the whole family benefits as the child develops a love of reading and learning.
Helping Children See the World from a Different Perspective
Although the nutritional and educational aspects of the Foundation’s programs were always part of the mission, the “experience” part happened almost accidentally, during a school visit.
“One of the teachers remarked, in passing, that most of the children had never been to the beach,” Rose said. “I remember Justin and I looking at each other. This is Orlando; the beach is 30 minutes away—how could this be?”
On the drive home, they decided to do something about it. They called the school back and volunteered to take a group of second graders to the beach.
“We had lots of activities. A nutritionist spoke for 15 minutes; Justin did a golf event for 15 minutes, we heard from a conservationist, and had some activities, like a relay race,” Rose said. “Then, we ended with a picnic lunch on the beach.”
Although she initially planned it as a “fun” event, the feedback from the teachers told her that the beach experience had been educational, as well.
“When we started, we didn’t realize the educational impact. But, when you think of teaching the concept of infinity to a child, using only a book, you can imagine how difficult that could be. But, when children go to a beach and see water stretching as far as the eye can see, they understand. They learn the concept of infinity.”
From there, the program continued.
“We took children to the golf course and were blown away by the kinds of things they were taking away from the experience,” Rose said. “On the first golf trip, they all kept sitting down—I couldn’t figure out why. Then they told me; they had never felt soft grass before.”
The children also saw different kinds of jobs; professions that they never knew existed before.
“They saw greens keepers, marshals, starters—all of the people who make the golf tournament happen,” Rose said. “So many of these children aspire to work at McDonalds for the free food. We wanted to give them a broader view of the world, to expose them to different types of opportunities; to open their eyes to what’s out there.”
The program has had such an impact that Rose is now speaking to hotel chains about setting up outings, to help children explore the career opportunities in Orlando’s thriving hospitality industry. She also wants to set up an experience with local law enforcement, to change the negative perception some of the children have about the police.
“When I was growing up, the police came to our school every year and talked about what they did. It was a very positive experience,” Rose said. “For some of the children we work with, their first exposure to the police is when they show up in the middle of the night to take away a family member. We want to help change that perception.”
The World’s Best Soccer Players and Pro Golfers Suit Up to Help the Cause
Of course, none of these programs happen without fundraising. Charity golf tournaments, silent auctions, as well as corporate and individual donors keep the Foundation going. But, in 2016, there’s a new event to add to the roster—the Kate & Justin Rose Foundation is teaming up with the Orlando City Soccer Foundation to kick the year off in style.
On February 22, the top names in soccer and professional golf will compete in the first annual “Kicks Fore Kids” pro-am footgolf tournament at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Grande Lakes.
Yes, we said footgolf. It really is a thing.
If you’re not familiar, in footgolf, players kick a soccer ball on a shorter version of a golf course. The players follow the same rules as traditional golf, but advance the ball by kicking it around the course, over the water hazards and eventually (hopefully) in the much larger but equally elusive hole.
During this event, one pro golfer or soccer player will be paired with a threesome to compete on a regulation footgolf course for what is sure to be a lively competition. No one knows who’ll have the advantage—pro golfers who live and breathe course management, or soccer players with undeniably mad foot skills. But, one thing is for certain: it will be a great day of fun for participants and spectators alike.
“We’re so blessed to be partnering with the Orlando City Soccer Foundation who, like our organization, is focused on helping children in need,” Rose said. “The event will help raise awareness of our organizations, and the funds raised will positively impact many children in the Greater Orlando area.
Teeing Up More Great Things to Come
By anyone’s standards, the Kate & Justin Rose Foundation has accomplished a great deal. In the last two years alone, this organization has provided more than 120,000 hunger free weekends and almost 100,000 books to the children they’re supporting—and all of that happened with Kate Rose running the organization solo. Now that the Roses have moved to the Bahamas, they’ve hired Sara Moores as Executive Director to accelerate the Foundation’s growth and, more importantly, the amount of good it can accomplish. Moores comes with the right credentials—she was a long-time Director of Player Relations for the PGA TOUR, and Executive Director of the PGA TOUR Wives Association. So she knows her way around, inside and outside the ropes.
But, don’t think for a minute that Kate Rose has reverted to “figurehead only” status. She and Justin are as actively involved and enthusiastic as ever.
“When I was running the organization myself, I had to be careful not to overextend. Now that we have Sara, we can do more, and bring on more volunteers with new ideas,” Kate Rose said. “I’d also like to start a similar program here in the Bahamas, and do some things in conjunction with Orlando, like set up sister schools.”
She credits the generosity of the golf community and the people of Orlando for helping the organization accomplish so much, so far.
“We are blessed to know the people that Justin and I have met through golf. They’re very interesting, and very philanthropic,” Rose said. “We’ve had a lot of support along the way.”
There are many great athletes who lend their names to Foundations, and do their part to give back. But, Kate and Justin Rose have taken that concept to a higher level—recognizing a need, and taking care of that need—whether that means training for a game of footgolf, or taking a group of kids to the beach.
Who wouldn’t want to support a cause—or a couple—like that?
If you’d like to find out more about the “Kicks Fore Kids” celebrity pro-am footgolf tournament, or sign up as a player, a sponsor or a spectator, please contact Katie Orvosh at email@example.com. For more information about donating to or volunteering to support the Kate & Justin Rose Foundation, please contact Sara Moores at firstname.lastname@example.org.