Life often sends quiet reminders that time is a gift. Three years ago, Tom White’s reminder came in the form of a diagnosis. Doctors told him he had brain cancer and that it was terminal.
The first two years after his diagnosis were difficult. Treatments and doctors appointments left him physically exhausted. His tumor, which impacts the portion of his brain that controls speech and language, took its emotional toll as well. But after spending time grappling with the new realities of his life, Tom was more determined than ever to live in a way that helped others. That’s when he decided to get involved in The First Tee.
You can now find Tom at Jefferson Park three days a week, helping coach countless kids in The First Tee with their golf swings and serving as an inspiring role model of perseverance. On some days, Tom can be seen smiling as he coaches a class of high-energy 7 and 8 year olds on the importance of confidence and meeting-and-greeting. On other days, he coaches an outreach class of young men from a boys’ home, many of whom are seeking refugee status and all of whom have never played golf before coming to The First Tee. Seeing Tom’s grin from ear to ear, it is clear that he has found a place where he is no longer a cancer patient. To his students, he is simply Coach Tom.
“I just love the kids,” says Tom. “Because of my issue with cancer, I have a lot of opportunity to give back. I feel very privileged that I have been given some period of time to do so.”
Tom’s brain cancer may be challenging his speech but it is no match for his sense of purpose. When he thinks back to his own childhood, Tom fondly remembers summer days when his parents would drop him and his older brother off at the golf course. The brothers would spend the whole day at the course together building a love for the game that has lasted Tom more than 60 years. He wants to give more kids those fond memories playing the game while helping teach the lessons that matter in life.
“Time is precious to everyone and it certainly is precious for Tom,” said Evan Johnsen, Program Director. “We often use lack of time as an excuse, but if Tom can find the time to give back then we all can.”