It is easy to squander blessings and wallow in tragedies. Ernie Els is doing neither.
The charitable foundation of the man who has won nearly 70 pro golf tournaments announced last week that it will establish a $30 million autism research and treatment center on 27 acres near Jupiter. Mr. Els is blessed with skill in a sport that has made him rich enough to contribute $6 million to the Els Center of Excellence. He and his wife, Liezl, have a son, Ben, who was diagnosed in 2008 with autism. Some would regard that as tragic. Inspirational people and families see blessings where others see tragedies.
The Els for Autism Foundation goes a step further by extending the blessing to others. The autism center will include a charter school serving 300 students from age 3 to 21. The center also will include medical treatment, research facilities and sports programs that will be open to the community. It plans to make its online resources available worldwide.
Charter schools are public schools, so this one will be open to all students in Palm Beach County and will be eligible to receive public money. While the charter school market is becoming flooded with for-profit ventures that cherry-pick students, this school promises the innovation that charter schools were intended to deliver.
The Els For Autism Foundation says on its website that it will work with existing non-profit charter schools in Palm Beach County that address the needs of autistic children. The new charter school will provide classes through high school as well as programs designed to help its students transition to adulthood.
“We want to build this great center for these kids,” Mr. Els said at an event announcing plans for the autism facility. “These are special kids and they need some really special help, and that’s what this thing is all about.”
The Els for Autism Foundation has raised half its $30 million goal for the autism center, and is staging golf events to raise an additional $3 million this year. The website elsforautism.com includes information about fund-raising opportunities for golfers and non-golfers.
Too many sports figures are known for temper tantrums and conspicuous consumption. Mr. Els and his family follow in the tradition of stars who rise above challenges to share their blessings.
Jac Wilder VerSteeg
for The Post Editorial Board