Written by Shaun Ryan for the Ponte Vedra Recorder
Residents of Ponte Vedra Gardens Alzheimer’s Special Care Center got a nice surprise Thursday, May 13, when representatives of the Tesori Family Foundation and PGA Tour delivered greetings from around the country.
Handmade greeting cards, postcards, drawings, paintings and more came in from PGA Tour employees and their families from as far away as Hawaii.
The delivery was part of a program that began a couple of years ago. Children and youth would visit the center at various times of the year, like Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween. According to Genna Lancaster, executive director of the Tesori Family Foundation, the idea was “to bridge the gap between youth and the elderly, to kind of bring joy to the residents here.”
But COVID-19 rendered it impossible to continue in-person visits, so organizers had another idea: a pen-pal arrangement wherein people would send letters to the residents.
PGA Tour employee resource groups proved essential to the success of this program. Two of these groups, Connect YOU and TOUR Life have partnered with the Tesori Family Foundation’s “Isaiah Smiles” initiative to offer a “volunteer from home” opportunity. “Isaiah Smiles” is named after the son of Paul and Michelle Tesori, who founded the Tesori Family Foundation. It brings positivity and smiles to Ponte Vedra Gardens residents.
Since the initiative was launched, PGA Tour offices from around the globe have sent in letters, paintings, homemade crafts and more.
Thursday, Connect YOU chairs Kari Smith and Courtney Wagner, as well as Taylor Tibbits, who is also with PGA Tour, joined Lancaster, center program director Jennifer McCormick and administrator Linda Jones to make the delivery.
“We asked everyone to make some cards and bring some sunshine to the folks here at Ponte Vedra Gardens,” said Smith.
Residents chatted happily with their visitors and examined the pictures and greetings with smiles.
Connect YOU also helps the Tesori Family Foundation with its All-Star Kids Clinic and Buddy Baskets, baskets of goodies given to Northeast Florida families who adopt or give birth to children with Down syndrome.