Jack Straub Establishes the Keystone Autism Golf Foundation for His Brother Colin
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children is 1 in 68. Before Colin Straub (15), a 9th grade student in the Spring-Ford Area School District was officially diagnosed, his parents, Bill and Jodi Straub, knew by the age of two that he was not developing like his typical peers.
During those early years the Struabs took advantage of every resource available. Jodi reveals, “I spent about five years doing testing just trying to rule out everything. I was on a journey to figure out what was going on with my son. I took Colin to different county Intermediate Units (IUs) and he fortunately entered Kindergarten with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). While Colin was in 3rd grade at Brooke Elementary School, he was officially diagnosed with having ASD.” At that time, his diagnosis was Asperger’s Syndrome, but now symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome are included under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Jodi can’t help but reflect on how fortunate they are to live in the Spring-Ford Area School District. “Every year Colin has amazing teachers who understand him so well. Spring-Ford hit a homerun with the people they have placed in his life and how the district makes inclusion a priority.”
Jack shares that the high school focuses on raising Autism Awareness. “The Student Council gives puzzle piece ribbons for every student to wear during the month of April.” Jodi adds, “Awareness is so important for obvious reasons. It can prevent bullying. Society has come a long way. It is critical.”
Ironically, Colin and Jack have both been influenced by the same teacher. “Mr. Dan Butterwick is a developmental golf coach and 7th grade special education teacher,” shares Jodi. Jack adds, “He is a fantastic coach on the golf course and really encouraged me to join the team.” Jodi interjects, “He has helped both of our kids tremendously. It was great for Colin to have a male teacher who was an excellent role model. He connects well with every student.” Jack also calls to mind a time when Mr. Butterwick and the other coaches encouraged another golfer to sit out so a student with special needs could play in a varsity match during the last match of the student’s senior year. The team was 100% behind the plan.
Jack Straub (17) a senior at Spring- Ford High School was in 11th grade when he became attentive of the importance of community service. Bill explains that, “Jack and I felt that volunteering could help him to develop his character and leadership potential. I challenged him to run his own charity golf outing.”
Years ago, Jack was a patient at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Bill shares, “Before the age of one, Jack had two surgeries. We have a special attachment to CHOP.” From the beginning, the pair knew that CHOP would be the focus of the fundraising event, but Jack felt it was too big to take on this endeavor and start his own outing. Quickly though with his family, extended family and friends standing behind him, ideas began to ignite.
“Colin was my inspiration for accepting the challenge to create a golf outing to help raise Autism Awareness. April is Autism Awareness month so we decided to hold the event on the last Monday in April at Spring Ford Country Club. Because of our great respect for CHOP, we decided that money raised would be presented to the CHOP Center for Autism Research at the Roberts Center. We began planning in the spring of 2016 for the event that took place on April 24, 2017,” recalls Jack.
Jack has been golfing since he was 12 years old with his mom and her father, his grandfather. “A lot of Jack’s training and inspiration has come from his grandfather. My in-laws were longtime members of Spring Ford Country Club, so Jack took to the sport very young,” Bill kindly boosts.
“I have been on the golf team at Spring-Ford High School for four years and just finished my last season. In the fall, I will attend Mount Saint Mary College in New York where I will major in business and play golf,” Jack proudly shares.
When you have a sibling with a disability, the relationship can be different than that of typical siblings. Jack beautifully explains what he admires about their relationship. “It is definitely different because we are quite opposite. He is quiet and I am outgoing. Our differences prevent us from having that typical ‘head-to-head’ competition that could occur between brothers. It is more about finding the things that we have in common and doing those things together. We both like to play board games and video games. He is a technology expert and I try to follow along with that as best I can! I truly admire our relationship.”
People tend to wonder at what point the typical developing sibling notices that their sibling with ASD is not exactly like them. “I really didn’t know that Colin was diagnosed with ASD until I was 12 or 13. I couldn’t tell before that,” informs Jack. Jack has learned to embrace Colin’s differences and sees that having Colin in his life has impacted him in positive ways because of Colin’s intrinsic compassion. The family agrees that he has a kindness about him like no other.
“I really admire his sense of humor. A lot of people don’t know quality he possesses. He says a lot of funny things that I would never think of. He has no filter,” laughs Jack. Bill adds, “Colin has a wit about him. His humor catches my friends and me off guard. His use of pun hits you right between the eyes sometimes. He is sly and clever.”
The golf outing was a key event to help raise Autism Awareness and do something for Colin to show support. Bill says, “We began brainstorming and liked the name Keystone because it represented Pennsylvania. We created a logo that incorporated the puzzle pieces that represented ASD. We then decided on the name Keystone Autism Golf Foundation and we were ready to begin planning.”
From there the dream started to become a reality. “The website domain was secured; we used Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to promote the event. I drafted an email and text to send to people we knew and we started to spread the word,” shares Bill.
After news widened, key people stepped up to make the event transpire. “Spring Ford Country Club was very willing to work with us. My dad, Boo Straub, was involved in getting people to sponsor each hole and contest hole. Everyone who played was a result of a contact that was reached though our various modes of communication. The first foursome was Jack, his two uncles, and I,” Bill says with delight.
Word spread as the father and son team worked on organizing this event every week for a year. Jack and Bill saw the good in people and their willingness to donate to a great cause. “Signs were donated by a local business for the tee boxes, sponsor board, and the check that was signed for CHOP at the end of the night. Everyone sponsor on that board has a story as to how they became involved,” Bill states.
The 39 golfer event successfully raised just under $4,000 for the Center for Autism Research at CHOP. Participation in the event helped to raise money, but the day was also filled with other opportunities to fundraise. “We had contest holes like the longest drive and closest to the pin. We had baskets and gift cards donated by businesses for a basket raffle held at the end of the night,” Jack recalls.
On the day of the event, people were brought together to raise money for a place that helps treat children with ASD and support their families. “We were reminded that ASD affects so many people in different ways. There were people there that we had never met before and that made the event even more special,” states a humbled Bill.
Every golfer was given a magnet donated by a shop in Boyertown. During the outing, Jack shares that, “After hole four we have ‘The Grove’ sponsored by a business. It is right in the middle of the property and serves as the meeting point of three different holes, so you can stop there multiple times. You can get food, beverages and a bathroom break.” At the conclusion of the golf outing, there is a full dinner along with an awards ceremony with trophies for the contest holes.
The goal for this year is to have 72 golfers, a foursome on each hole. Twenty five golfers have already committed. Sponsors from last year are returning, but there is still a need for sponsors. “My wife and some of her friends are getting the baskets this year from local businesses and already have 12 baskets for the raffle. They have been going out and killing it! We only had eight or nine last year, so this is huge and the baskets are incredible,” exclaims Bill.
The Keystone Autism Golf Foundation founders, Bill and Jack Straub, are amazed by how supportive CHOP was with their endeavor and the relationships they quickly developed with the people with whom they directly worked. “They sent us balloons to display on the day of the event with the CHOP logo. They sent us literature to help raise awareness, declared themselves an official sponsor and acknowledged that the proceeds were going to the Center. We were recently invited to attend the CHOP Founder’s Society on April 26 at the Merion Country Club because we presented CHOP with a check for over $1500. It is a dinner for anyone who made a contribution to CHOP for $1500 or greater in 2017,” Bill explains.
Thanks so much to the Straub family for helping to raise Autism Awareness. Jodi has much needed advice for parents of children who are newly diagnosed. “Meet as many parents as you can who have walked in your shoes or therapists and teachers who work with children with ASD. Do your research. Go to meetings. People with experience can give you advice and then you can sort through what advice to apply to your specific situation. The beginning of the journey is scary. Don’t live in denial.”
Jack, Colin is blessed to have such a caring brother and you are blessed to have Colin in your life. Colin’s natural kindness is such a great example to everyone. Bill and Jodi, the community appreciates parents like you!
*Local business owners, if you are interested in getting involved, donate a gift card, basket, or sponsor a hole for $175. For more information on how to donate or to register to participate in the event being held at Spring Ford Country Club on April 30, visit the event website www.keystoneautismgolf.com