URI’s Physical Therapy Department hosts golf event for kids with physical limitations

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KINGSTON, R.I. – Aug. 27, 2014 – When 7-year-old Charlie Paley played a round of golf at Button Hole last year he thought it was neat to see another kid who was like him: happy and energetic. Oh, and the other boy also had a prosthetic leg. Make that two.

Thanks to the University of Rhode Island’s physical therapy program, Charlie and other kids with physical limitations will get another free day of golf lessons Sept. 27 at the Providence course.

“Full Swing” is an annual event organized by URI physical therapy students to inspire confidence in kids with disabilities through sports and other activities. The event was a hit last year and promises to be a success this year.

“This program gives these kids an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and work on building skills and self confidence through fun activities,” says Shannon McConnell ’16, of Providence, a URI physical therapy student. “We hope the event continues to grow every year.”

“Full Swing” was the brainstorm of Paula Kleniewski ’15, of Warwick, a physical therapy student, and other students from the department. Kleniewski wanted to combine her love of golf and pediatric physical therapy.

Charlie, who is starting first grade in Cranston, was born with his right leg shorter than his left. When he was 3, his right foot was amputated. His father says he’s a spunky, bright and active child. Some sports, however, are a challenge, in particular T-ball, what with all that running.

Charlie signed up for the URI golf event last year after Sean and his wife, Caitlin, read about it in the newspaper. Up until then, he had only played mini-golf or hit a few balls in the yard with his plastic clubs.

His confidence soared after a day at Button Hole, which is accessible to people with disabilities. First, he played with a boy who had two prosthetic legs and realized that “he’s really not different,” Sean says.

“Little kids are always comparing themselves to each other,” he says. “I think Charlie thought, ‘Hey, I’m not the only one without a leg.’ ”

Charlie, whose prosthetic leg does not bend at the knee, also discovered that golf was a sport he could play with ease.

“Golf was something he was able to do,” says Sean. “It was great for him to be able to find a sport that’s not about speed. You go at your own pace. That was very important to him.”

He played for five hours with two golf pros from Button Hole and a gaggle of supportive parents and friends following behind. Sean says his son can’t wait to hit the links again this year.

Ditto for Braylon O’Neill, 5, of Cranston, a huge golf fan. “He had a great time last year,” says his mother, Kelli. “He likes golf even more now.”

Braylon was born without bones in his lower legs and wears two prosthetics, but that hasn’t kept him off the course – and playing fields. He’s gearing up for soccer this fall.

Kerri says the URI students who organized the event were wonderful last year, and she expects the same warmth and compassion this year. “The students involved in the program are so kind. It’s a special day.”

The event is free and open to children ages 5 to 13. The course is wheelchair accessible. To register, visit surveymonkey.com/s/fullswing2014. For more information, contact McConnell at 401-862-9278 or fullswinggolfri@gmail.com.

Anyone who would like to donate money to pay for T-shirts and food for the children can contact McConnell. Donations can be sent to Laila Almahdali, URI’s Department of Physical Therapy, 25 West Independence Way, Suite J, Kingston, RI 02881. Please make any checks out to Button Hole.

“This is such a great opportunity for the kids,” McConnell says. “The physical therapy department at URI encourages us to give back to the community. This event is a wonderful way to do that. For us, as students, it’s very fulfilling.”

Phictured above:

Charlie Paley, of Cranston, swings a club to practice for a daylong event Sept. 27 at Button Hole golf course sponsored by the University of Rhode Island’s physical therapy department. Photo courtesy of Sean Paley.

Braylon O’Neill, of Cranston, plays golf at Button Hole golf course last year at an event hosted by the University of Rhode Island’s physical therapy department. Photo courtesy of URI.