The 2016 Sanderson Farms Championship attracted the best athletes.
People like K.J. Fields of Mount Olive.
K.J., 11, plays basketball, competes in track and field events and has even gone surfing in California, all from his wheelchair. He was at the state's only PGA TOUR event Saturday and Sunday to thank spectators for their support of Century Club Charities and Friends of Children's Hospital.
Airlifted by helicopter to Batson Children's Hospital after being hit by a car seven years ago, K.J. was among patients at this year's tournament to greet golf fans. This year has been the first for Children's of Mississippi patients and employees to welcome those who make Century Club Charities' gifts to Friends of Children's Hospital possible.
Century Club, the host of the Sanderson Farms Championship, following the 2015 tournament, donated more than $1.109 million to Friends of Children's Hospital, a nonprofit group that raises funds for Batson Children's Hospital. In August, Friends pledged $20 million over the next decade to the Children's of Mississippi capital campaign to enlarge and update pediatric care facilities at UMMC.
K.J.'s mom, DeeWanda Fields, knows UMMC well. She was born at UMMC in 1980 and sickle cell treatments there have kept her healthy. “I loved it there,” she said of the state's only children's hospital. “I went there until I was grown. I knew K.J. was going to be well taken care of.”
Her oldest son had made the all-star list in baseball on a Thursday, had kindergarten graduation Friday and then that weekend was fighting for his life after a spinal cord injury from being hit while riding a go-cart.
“My papaw (Founte McNair) was giving me CPR,” K.J. said of the time between the accident and when the ambulance arrived. “I always thank him for keeping me alive.”
Helping Children's of Mississippi is “an honor,” said Kelvin Fields, K.J.'s father. “We love everything about Batson. They saved K.J.'s life.”
Aubree Jordan of Madison greets spectators with pairings guides as they head into the Sanderson Farms Championship, the state's only PGA TOUR event.
Aubree Jordan of Madison, now 21, was out greeting golf fans and handling out pairings listings. Public appearances aren't anything new for her, as she served as Mississippi's 2007 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Champion.
A nerve injury after a childhood fall from a golf cart sent her to Batson Children's Hospital. She still deals with the condition, but she also leads a full life as manager of the spa at the Country Club of Jackson and a student at Holmes Community College in Ridgeland. She plans to major in elementary education at Mississippi College next year.
After her fall, she might not have had the courage to have those dreams, were it not for Children's of Mississippi and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, she said. “There's no hospital like Batson.”
Diane Gribble of Dallas, mom of Sanderson Farms Championship winner Cody Gribble, meets another athlete: K.J. Fields of Mount Olive. K.J., though using a wheelchair, plays basketball, participates in track and field events and has even gone surfing. He was among greeters for Children's of Mississippi.
Greeted by DeeWanda Fields and her family was a fellow mother of an athlete: Diane Gribble of Dallas.
Her son Cody Gribble was among the competitors in the Sanderson Farms Championship. Showing a bit of the tenacity of K.J., he fought back after an opening 73 to make the cut, going on to score 63 in the second round and win the tournament with a 7-under 65.
“We love how the PGA supports causes such as children's hospitals,” Diane Gribble said. “It's wonderful what the PGA does.”