WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — The state Department of Commerce isn’t just using the Greenbrier Classic to promote business and tourism in the state.
It’s also using the PGA tournament to give some underprivileged kids and foster families a chance to get out and see something they wouldn’t normally be able to see.
The state gave about 80 grounds passes and concert tickets to the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia to give some of the children and families it serves the opportunity to attend this year’s event.
“We’re thrilled, we just think it’s the greatest thing they could have done,” said Mary White, the society’s chief operating officer.
Children’s Home Society of West Virginia is a private, nonprofit child welfare organization that provides emergency child shelters, foster care, adoption, mentoring and early intervention services to thousands of children across the state.
As part of its $1.7 million sponsorship of this year’s event, the state receives several perks available to other sponsors, including luxury skyboxes, free Greenbrier resort accommodations and hundreds of grounds passes for the golf tournament and tickets for this weekend’s Maroon 5 and Jimmy Buffett concerts.
While the state Department of Commerce and Division of Tourism have used some of these perks to entertain visitors and potential business representatives, the department also decided to use some of its ticket allotment to give some needy families a chance to visit this year’s event.
“Every child is a precious gift,” said Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette. “For more than 100 years, the Children’s Home Society has been making sure that kids in difficult home situations get the love and care they deserve.”
About 80 children will get to attend this year’s tournament and the concerts as guests of the state.
“These are kids who are overcoming some incredibly tough circumstances, and we’re delighted that we could invite them here this week to have some fun,” Burdette said.
White said the donation of the grounds badges and tickets will provide the organization’s children and families an opportunity they would not otherwise have had.
“As a nonprofit organization that is something that we would not be able to afford or provide for them,” she said. “For these folks to donate those tickets, that’s means a lot for us.”
The organization oversees a network of 10 emergency shelters and also provides child welfare, behavioral health, casework and advocacy services to nearly 6,900 children each year.
“These are children that have not had a lot of opportunity,” White said.
“You might think that kids get to do a lot of things, but truly there are children who have never been at a golf course, have no idea what a golf tournament is or have never been to the Greenbrier or know what it is or what’s there,” she said.
“That’s an outstanding thing that they’re doing here in giving these kids the opportunity to experience something fun or that they can learn from that they would not have had otherwise.”
Several children from those emergency shelters were milling about the Old White TPC course grounds Thursday afternoon. The organization also offered some foster and adoptive parents a chance to attend this years’ event with their children.
Alanna and Ricky Sharp of Randolph County, who are in the process of becoming adoptive parents for a four-month old boy, were happy to push their child in a stroller across the grounds Thursday.
The couple had been working with the society’s free adoptive services division since October to adopt a child. In February they were selected to become adoptive parents for a newborn boy. They hope to have the legal process of completing the adopting finished by November.
Both said they were grateful for the chance to attend this year’s event.
“A lot of families could not afford this opportunity without the support of the Department of Commerce and Children’s Home Society, so I think this is excellent,” said Ricky Sharp, 34.
On a given day, there are more than 4,000 children in West Virginia who are in need of foster care, said Amanda Thomas of the Children’s Home Society’s Lewisburg office. Thomas said the society offers free foster and adoptive counseling and legal support to children and prospective parents.
White said the organization was giving out free passes and concert tickets to children and parents from different areas around the state, with most planning to attend events on Saturday.
“I can’t wait to hear the stories when the kids come back about what it was like to be at the Greenbrier and to watch these guys play golf,” White said. “Everybody can do something, and this is an important something for kids.”
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-4836.