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This new van will be shared by four local groups dedicated to improving the lives of young people and used to shuttle kids to activities throughout the area. Representatives of the collaborating groups are shown with the van on Wednesday, July 3. From left are Jerry Jones, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center; Sara McLaughlin-Cross, executive director of The First Tee Quad Cities; Rachel Price, director of clubs and programming for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Valley; and John Gripp, Rock Island's parks and recreation director.

In the world of great gets, the newest member of The First Tee Quad Cities family is a step beyond great.
 
It's moving.
 
Moving as in using its four wheels and seats for up to 12 passengers at a time to transport young people to local courses to teach them about the game of golf.
 
Thanks to the efforts of many and grants from the Moline Foundation, Scott County Regional Authority, Regional Development Authority and Rock Island Parks and Recreation Foundation, a new 12-passenger van is available to assist The First Tee Quad Cities during golfing months.
 
At other times, it will be available for use by the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, the Rock Island Parks and Recreation Department, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Valley.
 
According to its website, The First Tee Quad Cities is a youth development organization aimed at introducing the game of golf and its inherent values to young people.

It has facilities at Red Hawk Golf Course in Davenport, Highland Springs Golf Course in Rock Island and Two Rivers YMCA in Moline, as well as an affiliate program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Valley in Moline.

Going for grants

"The First Tee Quad Cities recognized the difficult time our partnering organizations were having with trying to get kids to our program,'' said Sara McLaughlin-Cross, the program's energetic and forever-upbeat executive director. "And renting transportation is incredibly expensive — a lot of times unrealistic to put into an operating budget.''
 

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So McLaughlin-Cross applied for four grants that would eventually be awarded and allow First Tee to buy the new van.
 
But spring flooding put the project in a state of limbo, since other entities needed assistance with flood relief from the groups offering grants.
 
"It put us in a rough position because we needed funding for the project, but the Q-C as a whole needed funding,'' McLaughlin-Cross said. "So we weren't really sure if it was going to happen for us.''
 
When funding came through, a relieved and grateful McLaughlin-Cross realized they faced another hurdle.
 
"The problem was we are in the Midwest, which means the First Tee program is only happening from April to September — if we are lucky,'' she said. 
 
"We didn't want the van to sit in a parking lot in the winter and not be used by those in need. That is when we decided to make this a collaboration project with our partners, which are the Martin Luther King Center, Rock Island Parks and Recreation, and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Valley.''
 
The van will be shared between by the four groups. "Our partners are able to use it for so much more than just bringing kids to First Tee programming,'' McLaughlin-Cross said. "They are able to transport kids to any program they want.''
 
This week, the new van is ready and available to transport youths to the John Deere Classic golf tournament in Silvis. First Tee is the Youth Day sponsor at the local PGA event.

Tuesday, the first 750 kids arriving at the Family Zone at 10 a.m. will receive gift packages that will include a bobblehead of defending JDC champ Michael Kim and a First Tee hat. A meal at the course will be provided by Chick-fil-A.

The day also will feature the Lunch & Learn With a Pro program. It will begin at 11:30 a.m. in the John Deere hospitality tent located behind the 18th green. The question-and-answer session will feature former University of Illinois All-American golfer Scott Langley, a First Tee graduate who is a PGA Tour regular. At 2 p.m., the youth clinic will take place.
 

Collaboration was key to success

John Gripp, Rock Island's parks and recreation director, is thrilled with the new van.

"It's an excellent get for the King Center and us,'' Gripp said. "It's great for the kids involved. It will allow us to put 300 young people through the (First Tee) program.''

 A grateful McLaughlin-Cross had high praise for the Moline Foundation, Scott County Regional Authority, Regional Development Authority, and Rock Island Parks and Recreation Foundation.
 
"Wonderful and understanding entities,'' McLaughlin-Cross said. "They have such an amazing and positive impact on our community.''
 
McLaughlin-Cross said she believes a spirit of collaboration between organizations doing work on behalf of young people helped bring the van project to life.
  
"We showed that we are able to come together as four separate organizations who are ultimately all going for the same goal — to help shape our Q-C youth into great kids,'' McLaughlin-Cross said. 
 
"We are so excited to give this van to the kids of the Quad-Cities and be able to provide them with the transportation to get them into any programs they want to do," she said.
 
"We only hope to expand on this collaboration and come up with bigger and better projects that are needed in the Quad-Cities," McLaughlin-Cross added. "We can all be successful in our own way, but we can be unstoppable when we come together to make projects a reality. ''
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