Click here to register

Click to donate online Revelation Golf Newsletter

Disabled Veterans Take Swing at Golf Follow Us on Facebook


Cantigny Golf helps veterans with disabilities get their game onCantigny Golf helps veterans with disabilities get their game on.
Daniel White, Daily Herald Staff

magazine April 2011

RevelationGolf was recently featured in the ChicagoGolf magazine.
The article was published in the April 2011 issue.

Click here to read the article          

Golf therapy helps improve quality of life for veterans, disabled
NADIA MALIK, Daily Herald Staff  2009-01-21

After several practice swings, Nolan Jackson is on a roll. With the help of a therapist, the Korean War veteran is able to hit a golf ball to the back of the Buffalo Grove golf dome.

Jackson arrived at the dome from the North Chicago VA Medical Center in a wheelchair, but he's able to stand with a club while Susanne Brunner assists with his balance.

All around him, golf professionals and amateurs are swinging away, practicing for warmer days when they can play outdoors. But Jackson and three other veterans are playing the sport as part of a unique therapy program.

The session is just one of the many that recreational therapist Donna Strum and golf professional Kathy Williams coordinate for their nonprofit company Revelation Golf, based in Elk Grove Village.

Besides programs for veterans, Revelation Golf also provides outlets for breast cancer survivors, adults and children with disabilities, and at-risk youth.

Strum and Williams are everywhere: They have a golf program with the Palatine Opportunity Center and with a youth group in Batavia. They use the White Pines Golf Course in Bensenville and Links & Tees in Addison heavily to service the veterans at North Chicago and Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Maywood. And they've been working with teenagers who are going through the drug and alcohol dependency program at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.

"Our goal is to use golf as a therapeutic tool to increase the quality of life," Strum said.

Each person in the program is paired with both a golf specialist and a therapist. The therapists determine what their bodies can handle and the specialists modify the golf techniques - from choosing a lighter club to finding just the right gloves - to make them work for each individual.

The medical problems can range from people with hip replacements to soldiers returning from war who have brain damage. Many of the modifications include finding a way for people to play from wheelchairs.

For the veterans group at the Buffalo Grove golf dome, the day starts out with stretching while holding a golf club. Some begin hitting with shorter clubs so that their balance isn't thrown off.

Consistent work helps them build endurance and range of motion.

"People don't think of it as therapy," Strum said.

Sheila Johnson, who works at the VA, said she notices a definite change in the veterans who take part in the program.

"The muscle motor movement skills seem to be working really well," she said.

James Fowler, a Desert Storm veteran who hadn't had the opportunity to play golf for years, said he is ecstatic to practice in a dome that caters to his left-handed drive.

"This is like a new awakening," he said. "It's a joy; it really is."

Strum said the company has also taken on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It's probably one of the most rewarding things I've done," she said. "We've got returning soldiers with so many things going on. My dad was in Korea, so for me this is a way to give back."

Although many of the programs at Revelation Golf concentrate on physical difficulties, the company also works with other issues.

A program with girls who are living at or below poverty level is designed to teach life skills, such as respect and good stewardship.

The children are taught that they have to be honest when reporting their golf scores because otherwise they won't know how much they've improved over time. Strum said the hope is that this lesson translates into real life.

The same goes for the Northwest Community Hospital drug and alcohol program, which Strum said builds a positive approach to a leisure lifestyle.

"That's something they know they can have a success at, so they can funnel their energies in that direction as opposed to chemicals," she said.

Revelation Golf was incorporated in 2005 and started running programs in 2006. Strum said the first year 240 people were served, but this past year, she and Williams have helped 900.

Strum said the organization works with the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs and several other groups, bringing in grants as a way to keep down costs for participants.

For more information on the group, visit

Playing with Pride
MATT BEARDMORE  September/October 2008

With the assistance of RevelationGolf, veterans take a swing at the game. To see the full article, click here.

Coming Full Circle
MAC Report Spring/Summer 2008

There's a simple theme that can be found in pretty much everything Kathy Williams (Minn. '81) has done in here life. That theme is golf. To see the full article, click here.

Veterans given golf clinic at Willow Glen

JIM BOYLAN  Great Lakes Bulletin, August 22, 2008

RevelationGolf's new Veterans Golf Program for North Chicago VA Medical Center. To see the full article, click here.

GAME ON: Veterans get chance to return to golf course

Kathy Williams stood beside Quinto DeMattia as he gripped his golf club with his right hand and prepared to take his first practice swing on the driving range.

After a few swings, Williams stuck a putter in the ground and placed a golf ball on top.

"Let's see if you can do that," she said.

As he sat in his wheel chair, DeMattia swung and then laughed as the ball meandered a few feet in front of him.

"That's OK. A good start," said Al Blomquist, social worker at the Illinois Veterans Home La Salle Clinic.

DeMattia was golfing as part of the Revelation Golf program, with the assistance of Williams, a Ladies Professional Golf Association teaching professional.

Revelation Golf is a nonprofit organization that uses golf to enhance and develop a meaningful quality of life for cancer survivors, individuals with a physical disability and at-risk youths.

Williams and Donna Strum were at Dayton Ridge Golf Club in Ottawa Monday to teach golf to five residents of the Illinois Veterans Home La Salle Clinic.

DeMattia decided to stand for his next swing in hopes he'd have better results. This time he made contact and the ball traveled more than 30 yards.

"This guy. He's a natural," Blomquist said.

A natural, indeed. Golf skills run in his blood. DeMattia's brother, Emil, was named golf champion by the NewsTribune in the 1930s.

DeMattia, 90, is no stranger to the green himself. The Peru native remembers when he began playing golf while he was a caddy at age 14 at South Bluff in Peru.

"We got 25 cents for carrying nine holes," said the World War II veteran.

DeMattia still remembers every hill, turn and trap, Blomquist said.

"Every chance he would get to play, he'd play," Blomquist said. "It's nice just to get out in the fresh air."

Not too far down the driving range, Francis Whitey, 84, formerly of Mendota, was steadily improving his game.

Strum, a clinical certified therapeutic recreation specialist with Revelation Golf, stood behind him to help him properly place his feet and keep his stance.

With every swing, his distance improved until everyone gathered around him to watch him hit the ball more than 120 yards.

"Now I gotta get to 200," said the World War II veteran.

He lived in Arizona for 20 years and golfed almost every day.

"These are the first balls I've hit in five years," he said Monday.

The group made plans to return in three weeks and the five men said they are interested in coming back for another round.

"Oh yeah. Any place there's a golf course, if I'm able," Whitey said. "You're not always able to."

Blomquist said the men playing Monday were chosen because they often talk about golf at the Veterans Home.

"These are guys that used to play every week," he said.

Revelation Golf, based in Elk Grove Village, received a grant from the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs in June to begin the clinics for veterans. This is the fifth clinic of the program and Williams said the results have been strong.

"We're trying to use golf as a way to increase their physical ability," said Williams, citing balance, range of motion and endurance as focal points.

"Golf is a game you can play your entire life," she said.

Williams and Strum use adaptive equipment for the clinics. They carry adapted gloves, adapted grip and a gait belt, which is used to create a center of gravity.

"Our biggest goal is getting these guys out and giving them something to look forward to," Williams said.

Local charity shows healthy benefits of golf

Shortly before quitting her job as a therapist at a local hospital, which likely would have laid her off sooner than later, Elk Grove resident Donna Strum had a revelation.

Her favorite part of the job was using golf to show seriously ill and disabled patients that there can be life - and an active life - after their diagnosis or accident.

Strum says that once the patients saw it for themselves, it often was like they were experiencing a revelation. Her goal was to continue to help others have that same feeling.

In January, she co-founded the not-for-profit organization Revelation Golf with friend and Northwestern assistant women's golf coach Kathy Williams.

The two are working with dozens of local hospitals and charitable organizations to bring golf to those who can most benefit from its physical and mental challenges, as well as its life lessons.

"There was this guy I worked with who used to work for the phone company until he had an accident," Strum said. "A tree hit him, and parts of his spinal cord were punctured. The accident left him in a wheelchair, which was very hard for him. The first time we got him out on the golf course, he turned to his friend and said, 'I'm back. I'm me again.'

"It was this 'aha' kind of moment for him. That's the kind of reaction we want with this."

Strum couldn't be more committed. Living off her life savings and a severance package from the hospital, she has set up a modest office in her home and has been working tirelessly over the last several months to secure grants as well as individual and corporate donations.

Meanwhile, she also has been finalizing all the details of the organization's first major fund-raiser, which takes place Monday.

RevelationGolf will host an 18-hole scramble at Prairie Landing Golf Club in West Chicago. Other activities include a $10,000 check presentation by the United States Golf Association, a silent auction and a lunch that will feature former Chicago Bear Revie Sorey as a speaker.

Prairie Landing is one of eight golf facilities in the Chicago area that partners with RevelationGolf and offers free or discounted green fees to the organization.

Strum says her goal for Monday is to raise $15,000 for RevelationGolf, which has 60 patients in its program but would like to add more.

"Golf is such a wonderful therapeutic tool," Strum said. "You can work on a lot of things without the physical contact of other sports that could cause injury.

"Because of the swinging action, you can work on range of motion. It can also help a person work on balance or coordination. And golf is very social. Because very few people golf alone, it gives you that social component that a lot of people feel they lose out on if they become sick or disabled."

If nothing else, the atmosphere on a golf course can be a much-needed mood changer.

"There's definitely the aesthetic value of golf," Strum said. "You're out there in the fresh air, smelling the grass, trees and flowers. That can be very uplifting to people who have a lot to deal with."

Strum says her organization can help nearly anyone, from people with severe arthritis to those who are blind or disabled, who have suffered a stroke or who are dealing with the effects of cancer treatments.

"Take women who have had breast surgery because of breast cancer," Strum said. "Range of motion can be difficult since you have to come right across your chest to swing the club. We'll work with them on that.

"Some women have to wear these compressors on their arms to control swelling. We can modify their swing to help them compensate for that. We'll do whatever we can."

The work keeps Strum busy, but she says she couldn't be more satisfied.

"Starting this was a risk, but I've been very well provided for in my life and I just knew this was the right thing for me to be doing," she said. "I love to play golf and I'm educated as a therapist, so this is a way for me to combine my work and my passion.

"And I know we can help so many people."

Just for girls: Another demographic RevelationGolf targets is at-risk girls.

The organization works with the Franciscan Ministries in Wheaton to teach golf to girls who live in subsidized housing and are often from broken homes.

"These kids don't get to go to college; they see a lot of things that kids who are living in that area usually don't see," Donna Strum said. "We wanted to do something to give these kids something that could develop their self esteem.

"It seems that boys have a lot of opportunities already. We wanted to do something special for the girls."

Strum says the girls also can benefit from important life lessons golf can teach.

"We can even teach about honesty," Strum said. "In golf, you have to be honest, and if you aren't, you're just lying to yourself. There are also certain ways you have to dress and behave on the golf course. These are all good things for the girls to be exposed to."

RevelationGolf will host a one-week camp for the girls later this month. The organization also provides weekly lessons. Part of the proceeds from RevelationGolf's Monday fund-raiser at Prairie Landing will go to its girls program.

Learn more: For more information about RevelationGolf, visit, or call Donna Strum at (630) 253-7703.