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Golf outing will benefit disabled

In exchange for playing in a tournament for free, young golfers pledge to volunteer at the ChairScholars festival in April.

By JACKIE RIPLEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 25, 2002

ODESSA -- When some of the Tampa Bay area's top young golfers tee off next month at Cheval Golf and Country Club, they'll be doing more than competing in a Junior Golf Invitational. They'll be helping another group of young people get ahead, despite severe physical disabilities.

"It's very unusual," said Hugo Keim, a retired Odessa surgeon and one of the tournament organizers. "There'll be no fees charged, but the kids who play in the tournament must volunteer at the ChairScholars festival."

ChairScholars Foundation Inc., founded in 1990 by Keim and his wife, Alicia, operates locally as well as nationally, awarding scholarships to students who use wheelchairs or have other physical disabilities, coupled with financial needs.

"This is not for kids with things like attention deficit disorder," Keim said. "This is for seriously disabled kids, deaf, blind, in a wheelchair."

ChairScholars started as a national program, awarding scholarships to high school seniors nationwide and enabling them to enroll in any school of their choice. Money is provided by the Keims and other benefactors.

The organization has awarded 130 scholarships in its six-year history and will give 35 more this year, 20 in Hillsborough and five each in Polk, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

In the past scholarships were given only to Hillsborough residents.

The George Beardsley Junior Golf Invitational, to be held Feb. 10 at Cheval, will benefit the organization, but not in the usual manner. Top junior golfers will compete for trophies and prizes. But instead of paying to play in the tournament, participants will help at the ChairScholars scholarship festival April 6.

"This is the first of these kinds of tournaments in the Tampa area," Keim said. "We hope to start a real precedent."

So far, 46 golfers have been confirmed for the one-day tournament, Keim said.

Keim said Beardsley, Cheval's director of golf and instruction, came up with the idea for a youth tournament, naming it "Kids Playing for Kids."

The Keims created the local scholarship program, which is aligned with the Hillsborough Education Foundation and provides matching money. The local program selects financially disadvantaged children in grades 3 through 9. The grants average $5,000 and are invested in Florida's prepaid college program.

Each recipient is assigned a mentor, and must sign a contract with ChairScholars promising to remain drug- and crime-free throughout their school career. Having met those qualifications, they can attend any college in Florida after graduating.

- Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 269-5308.

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