JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was a Christmas gift that became a passion.
Dr. Justine Redding bought her husband, Richard Blackston, an out-of-the box gift for Christmas. She wanted him to pick up the game of golf and thought that golf lessons would be perfect.
That was in 2007.
When she and her husband went out to the First Tee of North Florida that afternoon, they both noticed something.
“I realized there were not many minority children out on the golf course, and this was a golf course that I played,” said Redding, a Raines High School graduate.
Eight years after that Christmas gift, their realization became something greater, and it continues today.
That gift set in motion what would evolve into the Moore-Myers Children’s Fund in 2015, a nonprofit foundation that provides support, financial assistance and life skills training to underserved children in the Jacksonville community. It has benefitted from a partnership with The First Tee and the groups tend to work in unison with one another.
Dr. Redding said that some of the children who have come through the Moore-Myers Children’s Fund approached the sport with a stigma that they have worked hard to erase.
“And to be honest, most of the kids coming into my program thought that this was an all-white man’s sport,” she said. “And we said ‘absolutely not.’ This sport is for everyone and we want you to be a part of that.”
Similar to The First Tee in that it teaches children golf and life skills, Dr. Redding said that the Moore-Myers Children’s Fund is just one more avenue to reach more children. It’s a year-round foundation, but one of the most visible events that it puts on is Monday.
The 5th Annual Eagles Invitational at Queens Harbor will feature more than a dozen players ranging from 5 to 18 years old. The word Eagles is what the foundation calls its students.
“My philosophy is if you take a child at 5 years old and you teach them the skills of golf, they will become proficient,” Dr. Redding said. “So, that’s my goal, to make sure minority children are introduced to the game of golf. I think it’s important even after they finish college, golf gives them a seat at the table. Deals are made on the golf course. I want them to understand the importance of it.”
The fund is named after the mothers of Redding (Annie Mildred Moore) and Blackston (Jessie Mae Myers). Redding said the Moore-Myers Fund blends the academic and teaching background of Blackston’s mother and the athletic background of her own mother.
“The best experiences I’ve had, really have come from just watching the joy of children learning to play this game,” she said. “And when you see a child hit a ball for the first time and they hit it well and see the light in their eyes, that’s what brings me joy.”