Westfield resident Kevin Vedder has been playing golf since he was 13 years old. But this July the father of three will hit the links for more than just the love of the sport, he'll tackle 100 holes in one day for the love of his son.
Vedder will participate in his first Hundred Hole Hike on Monday, July 1 at Rockaway River Country Club in Denville. HHH is a national network of golf marathons during which participants plan to walk 100 or more holes of golf in one day to raise money for a variety of charitable causes.
For Vedder, his charity of choice, Els for Autism, supports a cause that is close to his heart. Seamus, Vedder's 4-year-old son, was diagnosed with autism, a neurological disorder that affects the brain's typical development of social and communication skills, before his third birthday.
E4A is a foundation started by professional golfer Ernie Els, whose son, Ben, also has autism. The non-profit looks to raise money to develop learning centers of excellence, focusing on educational programs for students, access to a component of doctors, speech therapists and specialists, and funding scientific research aimed at understanding autism and developing knowledge-based treatments with the intention of finding a cure, Vedder explains on his webpage.
Seamus and Ben are not alone. According to a National Health Statistics Report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month, 1 in 50 children ages 6 to 17 were diagnosed with autism in 2011-2012.
Vedder said he learned of the event through social media. HHH continues the success of the Ben Cox 155, an event started by Jim Colton in 2011 at Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club in Holyoke, Colorado. Colton, a Ballyneal member from Chicago, raised over $110,000 for Cox, a Ballyneal caddie who was paralyzed in a skiing accident in March of that year, by walking 155 holes in one day.
Though he golfs much less frequently than in years past, Vedder said after reading about HHH he decided it was the vehicle through which he'd like to raise awareness.
"This is about a 25-mile walk, but those of you who have seen me play realize it might be closer to 35," he joked on his webpage.
As much as he is looking forward to the event, the golfer knows it's a huge undertaking.
"I'm hoping for an exciting if not very tiring day," said Vedder, who added that he's been working out in the gym several times per week to prepare for the day of marathon golfing.
Friends and family members have also volunteered to walk a dozen or less holes with him. "I really appreciate that because it'll keep me from talking to myself," he said with a laugh.
Vedder, who said he hopes to begin at 5:30 a.m. and complete the 100 holes by 8 p.m., explained that he has currently raised $3,500 and is hoping to hit $5,000 by July.
"If you'd be interested in contributing to the cause, I thank you greatly for your support via the link below," Vedder writes on his webpage. "If not, that's perfectly fine too, but please do me the favor of realizing next time you come upon a child or adult who may have autism. Rather than turn away...engage with them, make and maintain eye contact with them, and make an effort to connect and communicate with them. It will likely make both their day and yours. As a parent of a wonderfully loving child with autism, I thank you."
To support Vedder, visit http://hundredholehike.com/golfers/kevin-vedder.