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Shaw Charity Classic presented by Rogers continues to make an Impact

5 Min Read


Shaw Charity Classic presented by Rogers continues to make an Impact

    Written by Doug Milne @PGATOUR

    When Ken Duke sank that testy 5-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the final round to win last week’s Shaw Charity Classic presented by Rogers, his highly charged reaction was, if nothing else, understandable.

    After all, here was a guy vying for his first career PGA TOUR Champions victory in his 100th start. In spite of coming up shy in the previous 99, Duke never quit working hard. It was all leading him to bigger and better, he just knew it. He never gave up, not even on those stretches that seemed all uphill.

    In many ways, the journey of Calgary’s Ashley Exall, an 18-year-old rising freshman at McMaster parallels that of Duke’s. It even includes the Shaw Charity Classic.

    Ken Duke emerges victorious at Shaw Charity Classic

    When Lauren Exall came into the world, big sister Ashley was just three. Born with a heart defect, Lauren, now 15, would require intense and extensive medical attention. With no children’s hospital in Calgary, the Exall’s were forced to relocate to Edmonton. As one may imagine, the family’s relocation for Lauren’s extended hospital stay was difficult and expensive.

    From the beginning, Ashley exhibited an unconditional love for her little sister, one that has only grown deeper with time.

    “When Lauren was in the hospital, sometimes for months, Ashley eventually reached an age where she could make certain choices of her own,” said Ashley’s mother, Tara. “One of those choices was to not leave Lauren’s side at the hospital. She didn’t even want to go back to the hotel with us. She spent many nights in her hospital room, being such a good support to her sister.”

    Families having to pay for their own relocation in order for a child to receive expensive life-saving surgeries perplexed Tara. Why, she asked, were there not organizations already in place to offer assistance?

    “We saw the lack of government funding to help families with those kinds of costly issues,” Tara said. “It involves relocating to Edmonton while your child has heart surgery. We were there for six months. When we came back, we wanted to contribute or somehow give back.”

    In 1987, a group of “heart parents” met in Calgary, all with a desire to connect with each other for support. Over the years, what began as a support group morphed into Heart Beats Children’s Society of Calgary. Over the course of the last decade, Heart Beats has become more of a fundraising body.

    “I joined Heart Beats and have been on the board for 10 years now,” Tara said. “It’s an organization here in Calgary that provides support to kids with congenital heart defects and their families. So, Ashley has been involved for a long time.”

    Among the hundreds of beneficiaries of the Shaw Charity Classic is Heart Beats, for which Tara is incredibly grateful.

    “As a recipient charity with Heart Beats, I can tell you it really is a game-changer,” Tara said of the entirely volunteer-run organization. “The tournament matches up to 50 percent of our donations. So, we are all just so grateful for the Shaw Charity Classic.”

    “Of all the volunteer experiences I’ve had, Heart Beats was the main one,” said Ashley. “It was always a part of my life. Through its ties to the Shaw Charity Classic, we learned about the scholarship opportunity.”

    When the late Clay Riddell, a successful Canadian businessman, lobbied for an official PGA TOUR-sanctioned event in Calgary, his drive wasn’t to make money. It was to give it away.

    Riddell’s vision was to bring golf’s greatest players together in Calgary for what would become the Shaw Charity Classic, beginning in 2013. Through it, he was committed to raising large sums of money for youth-based charities in the province. It’s through that “Birdies for Charity” program that Heart Beats benefits.

    After his passing, the tournament created the Clay Riddell Community Hero award, which is now given annually to two young individuals in need who have made a positive impact in the community and exemplify the positive characteristics of the late Riddell. The award includes a $7,500 post-secondary scholarship for any college or university.

    It was through those volunteer efforts at Heart Beats that Ashley and Tara learned of the scholarship possibility.

    “I went ahead and entered when I was about to head to McMaster University, because that’s when I needed the money the most,” Ashley said.

    McMaster University, located between Toronto and Niagra Falls in Hamilton, is ranked among the best in the world with regard to global impact.

    “I’ve always loved anything related to math, physics or science,” Ashley said. “But, from an emotional standpoint, my passion was my sister with all of her surgeries and everything she went through.”

    Particularly interesting to Ashley about McMaster University was a set of words most people would struggle with just trying to say, let alone master: Integrated Biomedical Engineering.

    “The whole idea behind the program is basically to combine engineering, with physics and math and then apply it to medicine,” Ashley said. “Through all of high school, that was the kind of thing I was working towards.”

    As Ashley understands it, the intent of the IBIOMED program is to challenge students come up with their own idea and then run with it.

    “I think it would be really cool if I could invent something that would help people with medical issues or disabilities,” Ashley said. “That’s what I want to turn into reality.”

    As she was planning to head the way of McMaster one way or the other, Ashley received the response to her scholarship application she had been hoping for.

    “I got the email very recently and actually had to read it a couple of times,” Ashley laughed. “It was very, very exciting. It was more like a shock. My first year is officially covered now. It is a really, really big deal.”

    “We were so proud, the tears flowed,” said Tara. “She has always been a contributor, including countless hours at Heart Beats. It was never with the intention of winning a scholarship. It was fully out of the goodness of her heart. She wanted to give back to an organization that is so meaningful to her family.”

    “Because of this scholarship, it will be a lot easier for me to focus on my school and the things that are important to me, instead of stressing about tuition money,” Ashley said. “It’s nice to be able to focus on the things I’m lucky enough to be at college for. So, I am really, really grateful for the Shaw Charity Classic.”

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