July 15, 2020
Legends Luncheon presented by American Electric Power Foundation shines a bright light on Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and Nationwide Children’s Hospital alliance
2020 Virtual event raises $1.45 million for alliance, bringing 10-year total to more than $9 million
10th annual Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award Recipient honored
Dublin, Ohio – The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide hosted the 10th annual Legends Luncheon presented by American Electric Power Foundation today, a unique, award-winning fundraiser that brings to life the alliance between the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. This year’s event was hosted virtually from Muirfield Village Golf Club due to COVID-19 protocols. All proceeds of the Legends Luncheon directly benefit the young patients and families that Nationwide Children’s compassionately serves each day.
The goal of the Luncheon is to support advances in pediatric care and research throughout the areas of most need at Nationwide Children’s. To that end, this year’s Luncheon raised a record $1,450,000 for the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and Nationwide Children’s Hospital alliance. The 2020 amount equals the largest single-year donation in the event’s history and brings the Luncheon’s nine-year total to more than $9 million.
Executive Chairs of the Legends Luncheon presented by American Electric Power Foundation were Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, together with Nationwide CEO Kirt Walker and his wife Cindy, Nationwide Children’s CEO, Tim Robinson and his wife Jane and American Electric Power Chairman, President and CEO, Nick Akins and his wife Donna. Luncheon supporters experienced a charity event that is unique to Columbus, Ohio. Held this year during Memorial Tournament week, virtual guests enjoyed a special conversation with Memorial Tournament Founder and Host Jack Nicklaus, and major championship winners Webb Simpson and Gary Woodland.
A highlight of the Legends Luncheon presented by American Electric Power Foundation was the presentation of the Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award, which is given annually to a patient or family who in some way has demonstrated a strong, driving spirit in facing obstacles, an unwavering optimistic outlook, and a strong conviction for their connection to Nationwide Children’s.
The Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award honors the courage within that inspires volunteerism and community outreach, which has a positive influence on others. This year Jack and Barbara Nicklaus presented the Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award to Nationwide Children’s patient Anna Earl, 15, from Vienna, West Virginia.
Anna was born prematurely at just 29 weeks and diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy early on in life. This makes any sort of physical activity difficult for her, but she is always up for the challenge.
Anna’s love for golf first kindled when she participated in the national Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, a junior skills competition. When eight-year-old Anna decided she wanted to play, her father, Micheal, told her he did not know how it was going to work out. Anna replied, “Dad, it’s okay. I am used to finishing last.”
“To this day, it breaks our hearts thinking about hearing those words come out of our eight-year-old daughter’s mouth,” said Micheal.
As it turned out, Anna won the first round – albeit the only entrant. Regardless, she held her first place ribbon excitedly, having never finished first in anything before. She finished second in the next round, which advanced her to regionals. Although she did not win regionals, she had finally found the sport that would allow her to compete with her peers.
A few years later, Anna was named a starter on her coed middle school golf team. She weighed just 70 pounds and was barely four and a half feet tall but was beating boys twice her size. Despite her condition making it physically difficult for her to keep up with friends in everyday life, she continued to excel in her niche, golf.
In the winter of 2017, Anna began to have such tremendous pain in her lower body that it was difficult for her to walk. The spasticity – a condition that causes stiff, tight muscles – in her legs created misalignments in her feet, knees, hips and back. She had to resort to use a wheelchair for any long distances and worst of all was unable to play golf as her left foot was unable to be flat. After discussing various surgical options with her medical team, Anna underwent Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) surgery in May 2018, a spinal procedure to help reduce spasticity that only a few pediatric hospitals offer.
Though her first few days in recovery were extremely difficult, Anna’s determination persevered over the pain and she worked every day to meet that goal. She made it known to everyone who would listen that she would walk out of the hospital without assistance, and that she needed to be ready for fall golf which started three months post operatively.
Nineteen days later, Anna independently walked out of the hospital, with that notable smile on her face. Her neurosurgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Leonard, a golfer himself, said he would clear her to play if she beat him putting at her follow up appointment. Determined, Anna attended physical therapy, the gym and pool multiple times weekly. In addition, she volunteered at a summer reading and nutrition program for at risk kids, and as a counselor at a junior golf camp. Anna was unable to golf herself while recovering but wanted to be on the golf course.
In August 2018, at her 3-month checkup, Dr. Leonard put a paper cup down for Anna to putt into, as promised. She made it. Before he even putted, he told her she was cleared. Then, he putted himself, and missed. Anna left her appointment and had one mission that day – to swing a club. She and her Mom and Dad went to the driving range, where she swung that club until her hands bled. Though she was a bit disappointed in her swing, she was determined to improve. In the following days, she would be on the course every day. Anna rejoined the golf team that season and went on to make the all-county team. For a Mom and Dad who were not sure their child would ever be able to enjoy her one passion again, they say it was humbling to see their child shine. If you ask Anna though, she never once had a doubt that she would return post-surgery.
The past 18 months have been amazing for Anna and her family. Anna still plays golf and has had a successful year. At her first tournament, they were told she was not allowed to ride in a cart due to an issue involving paperwork. Her coach told Anna that she should do what she could walking and if she needed to withdraw, then she would be proud of what she had accomplished. Anna did not blink as she said, “I will finish my round.” She walked that match and every subsequent match after, even once the paperwork to allow her accommodation of riding in the golf cart was received. She lettered on her high school golf team, finished 12th in the WV State High School Girls Championship – walking an extremely hilly terrain. Anna said her greatest accomplishment on the golf course, was not finishing in the top 12 out of 69, but the fact she walked that course with every other girl.
Anna’s story does not stop there. At the end of the year, her golf coach told her that she needed to get stronger and recommended she swim with the swim team. Anna is not comfortable with swimming, but to everyone’s surprise, she said she wanted to join the crew team. Anna works out five days a week with her crew team, and when the coach has offered her accommodations to these workouts, Anna says she wants to do what everyone else is doing, when she can do it. Additionally, she attends a non-mandatory practice at 6am on Fridays because she “just wants to get better.” She has already decreased her time in rowing, though her goal is to be a coxswain.
“My wife and I cannot say enough how the miracle of having Anna back on her own two feet has meant to us. We must admit we are probably the only parents in the world that has a slight smile in their heart when their teenage daughter stomps away to her room. We will forever appreciate Dr. Leonard and his team for the miracle they performed,” said Micheal.
Though Anna has never had a goal to be an inspiration to anyone, she is to everyone who meets her.
True to the hearts of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide includes as one of its primary objectives a genuine, philanthropic vision. It is through the Tournament’s partnership with Nationwide Children’s that this vision comes to life in the form of pediatric care for children, not only in central Ohio, but from all 50 states and more than 50 countries each year.
Ten-year Tournament sponsor Nationwide shares a similar tradition of support for Nationwide Children’s. Nationwide is committed to broadening the impact of its presenting sponsorship of the Memorial Tournament to bring greater awareness and increased funding to Nationwide Children’s and to those who benefit the most – families and children in need of care.
About the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide
The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide is held annually at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. The Tournament, founded and hosted by Jack Nicklaus, is conducted each year with three goals in mind: to honor the memory of individuals living and deceased who have distinguished themselves in the game of golf; to showcase the world’s best golfers competing on one of the most challenging venues in the world for the enjoyment of spectators; and to benefit many Greater Columbus Charities in alliance with the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, Nationwide Children's Hospital and numerous other local organizations. For more information, visit www.thememorialtournament.com or call 614-889-6700.
Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit www.nationwide.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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Director of Communications,
the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide
Additional Media Contacts
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