The Robert Kalkman Foundation was established in 2007 by former Dutch international footballer, Robert Kalkman, and is designed to support children with cancer and/or a physical limitation by encouraging them to find a new passion in life by playing golf.
The Robert Kalkman Foundation has received funding from the Ryder Cup European Development Trust in order to continue providing opportunities to children across the Netherlands and allow the Foundation’s clinics to increase in size and frequency.
Here the Ryder Cup European Development Trust speaks with Kalkman to find out how the Foundation is progressing and what effect the funding they have received has had…
The Robert Kalkman Foundation (RKF) was founded by PGA of Holland Professional, Robert Kalkman, and was born out of Kalkman’s desire to help children going through situations that were similar to his own experience.
The Foundation deals directly with specialist units and practitioners to encourage the children undergoing treatment or with disabilities to sign up along with friends and family and take part in the Foundation’s clinics local to each of the hospitals.
“We get all the kids together between the ages of six years to eighteen years old,” explained Kalkman. “They have all kinds of leukaemia, tumours and cancers that occur in the arms or legs and many other parts of the body. The kids then inscribe with their brother or sister, or even a friend – It’s really important to get the whole family to experience the day without any worries.
“The main thing is to keep it really relaxed and make sure everybody enjoys it. We begin by introducing the team of PGA Professionals and the volunteers and then have an introduction including history and then some putting.
“We give them the basic information and they start out very small from short distances and they are very concentrated straight away and enjoying themselves. We put them together in twos and threes so they immediately have contact and can talk with each other.”
The clinics have gone on from strength to strength each year…
“When we started with the first clinic we had about 12 kids and then it went step by step every year – from six clinics to eight very quickly and then on to ten. We saw it growing in the way that we get more inscriptions from the hospital, and the doctors were talking about it more and more in the hospitals which was a very good way to get them to the golf course.”
When Kalkman was 18 he was diagnosed with bone cancer in his leg, which essentially immediately ended his burgeoning soccer career. During his treatment and rehabilitation periods, he took up golf and chose to spend his time practicing and playing rather than being at home all the time:
“The first time I was on the golf course was during my chemotherapy that I had for two years every three weeks…I didn’t want to go home [after] – the first thing I wanted to do was go to the golf course. That’s where I practiced so many hours from dawn til dusk.
“It gave me the feeling of the ball and helped on the mental side but also, together with the other youth players, I tried to get the best out of my swing…”
It was this experience that came back to him in later life when he was coaching at a trade show and began helping some children that were receiving treatment for similar illnesses to what Kalkman himself had suffered from.
The benefits of exercise, group activity and the outdoors have been well documented and the clinics the Foundation runs are a great example of each of these things coming together. The opportunity for the children to enter into a fun, safe and controlled environment can help them in many ways, and Kalkman sees this as a real driving factor for the continuation and growth of the Foundation:
“The motivation is that you can make so many children happy – at the moment they are in the worst situation of their lives and if you cannot do any sport. Golf is the best sport to get in contact with because of the fresh air, they can do it at their own speed, and there are nice surroundings. The atmosphere is very important and when concentrating they can forget about the hospital, their chemotherapy or treatment, and operations.
“The next step is to give them the strength and the power to face every new day or next week – sometimes school doesn’t work for them anymore or situations at home are difficult and the only thing they have is thinking ‘hey I can go to the golf course next week’ – that’s the only focus they have. They can have fun and see the other kids there, and that’s always nice to see.”
The Ryder Cup European Development Trust has supported the RKF for a number of years, assisting in providing the initial funds to get it off the ground. The basis that the RKF has created will also hopefully continue to grow in future and Kalkman hopes it will continue to help children in the same way he was helped by the sport:
“The funding has been very important – we got in touch in 2008 after we started and did the application and it was a very important step from the basics. We started out from zero so to get the clinics going and organise what we had promised to put together was important and the support from the Ryder Cup European Development Trust was vital.”
“This year we had groups on Saturdays from around 25, 30, 40, 50 kids together, and with the parents we have groups of 75-80 people, so we want to create clinics that are throughout the week on Wednesdays or Mondays where possible.
“Then to also have smaller groups and get them together in the same way but have more detailed information on the rules, etiquette. But it needs to come step by step – we don’t want to force them and jus give them the information so that some of them will want to play more 9- or 18-holes to see how they experience that as well.
For Kalkman personally then there is every reason to continue growing the Foundation:
“It’s tough times for the kids, but luckily throughout the days the fun they have, the reactions they give, and how they approach me and vice versa is so nice to have – it’s a lot of fulfillment and satisfaction to see them lift up.”
For more information on the Robert Kalkman Foundation visit www.RobertKalkmanFoundation.com.