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Play Yellow surpasses $100M fundraising goal in partnership with Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, PGA TOUR

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Beyond the Ropes

Brooke Glennon received treatment from Shodair Children’s Hospital, one of 170 members of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and one of CMN’s primary fundraising initiatives is Play Yellow. (Photo courtesy of CMN)

Brooke Glennon received treatment from Shodair Children’s Hospital, one of 170 members of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and one of CMN’s primary fundraising initiatives is Play Yellow. (Photo courtesy of CMN)

    Written by Helen Ross @Helen_PGATOUR

    Brooke Glennon calls them her “bad brain days.”

    Six years ago, she might have reacted by taking a knife or a razor blade and cutting her arms. That way she could focus on the physical pain rather than the depression she felt. Three times on one of those bad brain days, the teenager swallowed pills and tried to commit suicide.

    Each overdose landed Brooke in Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena, Montana. But it wasn’t until after the third attempt -- “I was very, very close to succeeding,” she says – that Brooke opened her heart and most importantly, her mind to the treatment the doctors offered.

    “They have meant so much to me and I know to so many other kids out there,” Brooke says. “They have helped me turn my life around completely 360. … They showed me that it's okay to be sad and it is okay to feel these emotions. It just needs to be in a healthy way.

    “They gave me my life back. They gave me my happiness back that was gone for so long.”

    Shodair, the only hospital in the country to focus specifically on psychiatric care for children and teenagers, is among 170 members of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. And one of CMN’s primary fundraising initiatives is Play Yellow, a partnership with Jack and Barbara Nicklaus and the PGA TOUR that began in 2019.

    On Wednesday, CMN announced that Play Yellow had surpassed its $100 million fundraising goal. That money is distributed to hospitals like Shodair to ensure that kids like Brooke, along with their families, receive the care and support they need, as well as to provide specialized equipment, transportation vehicles and training programs for the staff.

    “We don't decide how they use the money,” Aimee Daily, the CEO of the CMN says. “We just help make sure they get it.”

    And the need is great. Every minute of every day 72 kids enter one of the CMN member hospitals for treatment. By the end of a year, that’s roughly a total of 12 million pediatric patients who have been served in those facilities.

    “It can be everything from lifesaving treatment -- like right now there's a helicopter flying over me, a life flight,” Daily says in a recent phone conversation. “It could be a car accident, it could be a degenerative disease, it could be some type of condition that a child is born with, it could be a burn. It could be any number of types of services.”

    Play Yellow was created by Jack and Barbara Nicklaus to raise funds for the care of pediatric patients with the help of the golf community. The initiative honors Craig Smith, the son of Barbara Nicklaus’ minister, who was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, in 1968. The youngster and Nicklaus, who was his favorite golfer, began talking regularly by phone. During one of those calls, Craig said he had predicted a Nicklaus victory because he had worn his lucky yellow shirt on Sunday.

    Honoring Craig, who died when he was 13, by creating the Play Yellow initiative was a no-brainer for the Nicklaus family. Play Yellow fundraisers have now been held in 25 states, and 100 percent of the money goes to the CMN member hospital in that community.

    “We feel blessed that something so special came out of the tragedy of losing Craig at such a young age,” says Barbara Nicklaus, who is on the CMN board of directors. “Jack and Craig wore yellow to show each other support. Today, Play Yellow provides so many opportunities to be part of efforts to support children like Craig,

    “To see the impact that over $100 million raised through the game of golf will have on member children’s hospitals across the country, and especially the families in those communities, is truly amazing.”

    Brooke is one of the many kids impacted by Play Yellow.

    She’s 18 now, serves as president of the Montana History Club at her high school and works with Upward Bound. One of 10 national Patient Champions for CMN, she has shared her story at the local Play Yellow event as well as with other area organizations. She’s met the governor of Montana, as well as one of its senators.

    A teenager who once didn’t expect to make it to her senior year of high school will enroll at the University of Montana next year to study to become a certified surgical technologist first assistant. And the doctors at Shodair Children’s Hospital played a huge role in helping Brooke turn her life around.

    Brooke’s father died when she was 8 years old, and she had an extremely difficult time coping with the loss. She lashed out at her mom, and she started running with the wrong crowd, kids who taught her to self-harm and encouraged her darkest thoughts.

    “Who you are, who you hang out with, is definitely a real thing,” Brooke says. “They knew how hard I was struggling, but instead of helping, they more of fed into it, told me like, oh hey, we can make a suicide pact and all of this. So, they were not the good friends that I should have had.”

    Montana has the highest suicide rate among children and teenagers in the United States, but fortunately, Brooke did not become a statistic. After her third overdose, she was finally ready to take the most important steps of her life at Shodair. The doctors gave her the tools to get better.

    “I could talk to them for hours and they would never judge,” Brooke says. “… Their slogan is ‘heal, help and inspire hope,’ and that is definitely what they do.”

    She’s repaired the relationship with her mother, whom she calls her “Number one,” and enjoys her work in a day care center. She takes pride in her “healing journey” and is open in discussing it because she wants to “bring down the stigma against mental health.”

    “I'm looking forward to just waking up every day and being able to experience each day and have another day with my family,” Brooke says. “Just have another day on this amazing, beautiful planet. That's what I look forward to every day and just my whole life. I just am so excited to be alive.”

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