Thanks to Ryan Palmer Foundation, smiles shine on Bright family
May 22, 2019
By Doug Milne, PGATOUR.COM
- May 22, 2019
Ryan Palmer meets Brighter Smiles recipients at Colonial
“To Whom It May Concern.”
That’s how Robert Bright’s letter began a few years ago from his home in North Richland Hills, Texas. He was 16.
“I was adopted from foster care along with three of my biological sisters,” his letter continued.
In his mind, the note was not just a long shot. It was also a blind one. He didn’t know if the hope in his heart contained a beat strong enough to be heard through his words.
He wasn’t even sure the letter would be read.
“Our story is long and pretty sad,” Robert wrote. “I could go into the details of our past, but I have made a decision not to dwell on the past, but rather focus on the future and all things positive.”
Adding what felt like insult to injury, Robert and two of his biological sisters, Angel and Alyson, were in dire need of dental work. With the cost of necessary treatment, including braces, beyond his adopted family’s means, Robert learned of the Brighter Smiles Initiative.
Rewind 16 years to Texas native and four-time PGA TOUR winner Ryan Palmer. In 2003, he and his wife, Jennifer, started the Ryan Palmer Foundation. With Jennifer a licensed dentist, now non-practicing, the couple decided to place their primary focus on arguably the strongest indicator of confidence in children – smiles.
“We read stories of kids wearing hoodies to school and being embarrassed, made fun of and bullied,” Palmer said Tuesday from this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge.
In conjunction with the Brighter Smiles Initiative and Dr. Chris Swayden of the Smile Workshop in Dallas-Ft. Worth, the Ryan Palmer Foundation designates funds to the dental work of selected individuals.
The way the initiative works is that children write letters explaining their situation and needs. Following a review of the applicants from the Brighter Smiles Board, individuals are selected to receive the treatment from by Dr. Swayden.
“They definitely needed some braces to fix their smiles, not just for looks, but for health reasons as well,” Dr. Swayden said of the Bright kids. “They couldn’t clean their teeth… It’s going to help them with their confidence. It just made sense.”
“I have two younger sisters who also need braces, but braces for three kids is a little overwhelming for my parents’ budget,” continued Robert’s letter. “They have been trying to save money for our braces. The plan was to start with the kid who has the most severe problems. That was my biological sibling, Angel, but then my parents ended up adopting another group of siblings. The problem is that if we stay with those guidelines, I won’t get braces for a long time, because Alyson’s teeth are the worst of all. I am not complaining, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.”
As it turned out, Robert’s frown was turned upside down, making way for brighter days and, more importantly, bigger smiles. Even though the heartfelt letter was signed by Robert, he remained poised to put the needs of Alyson and Angel before his own. All three were selected and treated free of charge.
On Tuesday of this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club, the Bright kids were on site to meet the one person who not just helped alleviate physical battles, but emotional ones as well.
“When Jennifer and I read their story, it just hits you in the gut and you feel for them,” Palmer said. “And what (their parents) do, bringing in kids in their home and giving them a life, is incredible. We were able to come in, put a smile on their face, boost their self-esteem and give them somebody they are happy to look at in the mirror. That speaks volumes.”
“We were so excited to finally get to meet him,” said Robert of Palmer. “We had been talking about it all week. It was great to know that he cares, and does what he does for the betterment of other people.”
“It would be a blessing if we were chosen for this program,” Robert’s letter read in closing. “It would be an answer to my prayers.”
“We were just hoping and praying we would get selected,” Robert said. “We were ecstatic to be selected for something so big to us. It was just really cool that someone who has such a big reputation would select something that maybe seemed so minor. It helped in such a big way.”
“They’ve been through a lot,” said the children’s adopted mother, Cindy Bright. “This was such a huge blessing…such a huge blessing.”
“It means a lot to them,” said Dr. Swayden. “That’s just on the looks side of things. On the health side of things, they don’t know it yet, but having straight teeth when they get older will allow them to clean better and not get cavities. They don’t know just yet what the health benefits of it are, but they will later on.”
As far as the mindset of Ryan and Jennifer Palmer with regard to the Ryan Palmer Foundation, the intent falls in accordance with the philosophy spelled out in a 16-year-old’s request for help: “focus on the future and all things positive.”
“The main thing for us, as far as getting dental work done, is to just keep giving more and more kids the opportunity they wouldn’t have had before,” Palmer said. “When you have that immediate impact with dentistry and kids and their teeth, it boosts their self-esteem and gives them a better way of life.”