Disabled Army veteran Kenneth Rodel has been passionate about golf his whole life. Now facing a terminal illness, he’s short on time to enjoy it. Among his last wishes: to see the pros up close one final time.
Through its sponsorship of Birdies for the Brave, United Rentals made it happen.
Birdies for the Brave is a PGA-supported initiative dedicated to “showing appreciation to the courageous men and women of the United States Armed Forces.” Launched in 2006 by PGA Tour player Phil Mickelson to support combat-injured service members (and since expand to support all military), it has welcomed thousands of military guests and their families to golf events, hosting them in exclusive hospitality chalets known as Patriots’ Outposts. Some active duty members even get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to caddie for professional golfers on the PGA Tour.
United Rentals furnished Rodel and his wife, Dorothy, tickets to the PGA Tour’s Dell Technologies Championship in Boston. Like all the military guests hosted by Birdies for the Brave, they got the VIP treatment — complimentary food and drinks, camaraderie with many other service members and up-close views of the tournament.
“But we wanted to go further than the norm for Kenneth and Dorothy,” said Christopher Cox, senior national sports and entertainment manager at United Rentals. “We got him out on the tee box to say hello to each player, and gave him hats, golf balls and a golf bag signed by the pros.”
The experience brought tears to Rodel’s eyes.
“It hasn’t sunk in that this has happened to us. We will cherish this for the rest of our lives,” Rodel wrote to Cox after the event.
Birdies for the Brave’s support for service members and vets goes beyond the golf course. The group donates homes to wounded service members, gives services dogs to veterans with PTSD or physical disabilities, helps throw baby showers for military moms and raises money for other charities that work on behalf of military families. Its efforts have earned Birdies for the Brave recognition from the White House as one of the top 20 charities dedicated to helping military families. It has raised more than $18 million for military-focused charities.
Partnering with Birdies for the Brave is just one of the ways United Rentals commits itself to helping military families. The company also partners with Fisher House Foundation, which provides military families free housing while a service member or veteran gets medical care, and with Boulder Crest Retreat, which runs healing programs that improve the wellbeing of service members. It also works to ease military members’ transition back into civilian life, providing training and employment opportunities.
“It’s part of what we owe the guys and what we owe the country,” said Cox. “Birdies for the Brave is a perfect fit for us with the folks we employ. With all the things we do, this one hits home and best fits the model for the way we want to do things.”
For more information on Birdies for the Brave, visit http://birdiesforthebrave.org/
Joni Sweet is a journalist who writes about inspiring people and places.