Spectators aren’t able to flock to the Country Club of Jackson this year, and gone are the social events that usually surround the Sanderson Farms Championship. The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the state’s only PGA TOUR event, but its mission of supporting Children’s of Mississippi is unchanged, organizers say.
“Despite the difficult decisions necessitated by the COVID-19-related precautions, Century Club Charities remains committed to helping the Mississippi charities that depend on the tournament to support their annual operations,” said Pat Busby, president of Century Club Charities, the tournament’s host organization. “We still hope to have a very positive impact on Friends of Children’s Hospital and other Mississippi charities in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In August, tournament officials, in collaboration with the PGA TOUR, announced that the 53rd Sanderson Farms Championship would be played without spectators. Pro-Am play during tournament week starts today. All four rounds of the Sanderson Farms Championship will be broadcast on the Golf Channel Oct. 1-4.
Twice the winner of the PGA TOUR’s “Best Charity Integration” award for how Children’s of Mississippi has been incorporated into all facets of the event, the Sanderson Farms Championship is meeting the challenge of a pandemic with creativity and community support.
Using the hashtag #AllInForChildrens, the tournament has face masks with the logos of the Sanderson Farms Championship and Children’s of Mississippi for sale at sandersonfarmschampionship.com/mask.
“Our hope is that this campaign will create a tangible sense of community engagement throughout the state for the Sanderson Farms Championship,” said Sanderson Farms CEO and Chairman of the Board Joe F. Sanderson Jr. “Most importantly, we want to raise the dollars donated to Children’s of Mississippi that the 175,000 children treated in the children’s hospital and clinics annually depend on each year.”
The tournament has raised more than $7.6 million to benefit Children’s of Mississippi through Friends of Children’s Hospital since 2013, the year Sanderson Farms became title sponsor. Friends, a nonprofit that raises funds for the state’s only children’s hospital, pledged $20 million to the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, which is chaired by Sanderson and his wife, Kathy.
The Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, a philanthropic effort to help fund the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s children’s hospital expansion, has raised more than 83 percent of its $100 million goal. The Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi will open in November.
In previous years, professional golfers in town for the tournament would stop by Children’s of Mississippi to visit hospital patients. Since visitation during the pandemic has been limited to parents, the Sanderson Farms Championship is brightening patients’ day another way.
A flock of chicken backpacks, each stuffed with an activity book, were delivered to Children’s of Mississippi child life specialists to share with patients.
Hospital inpatients, as well as outpatients at the Children’s of Mississippi Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, have enjoyed the bags, said child life specialist Ashley Prendez.
“Part of what we do as child life specialists is to provide a sense of normalcy within the hospital setting. These activity packs are doing just that,” she said. “The Sanderson Farms Championship always keeps our patients at the heart of what they do. The gift bags are a hit with our patients, who love to color and draw.”
Bringing more color to the effort is watercolorist Wyatt Waters, who is donating 30 percent of sales from his 2020 Sanderson Farms Championship prints to the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi.
“Every year I do a painting of the tournament for the Sandersons,” Waters said. “This year created a challenge, since there would be no spectators. I work from life.”
Adding a face mask dangling from a golf bag put a 2020 twist on this year’s print.
“Given the unique circumstances of this year’s tournament, coupled with our growing giclee business, we decided to offer this year’s – and past years’ – paintings as prints as a way to benefit Children’s of Mississippi. Children’s of Mississippi, the Sanderson Farms Championship and the Sandersons all do so much for our state,” Waters said. “This is a way to show our appreciation.
The 2020 Sanderson Farms Championship print includes nods to the pandemic: There are no spectators except for Reveille the rooster, and a face mask dangles from the golf bag.