Wyndham Fights Hunger Through ‘Birdies Fore Backpacks’

GREENSBORO, NC—Wyndham Worldwide is working to make sure no child goes hungry here. Food hardship is a pervasive problem in the Piedmont Triad region of the state, with 15.9% of the population lacking food on a regular basis and considered at a level of “very low food security,” according to a ranking by the Food Research & Action Center.

Since its creation in 2014, the “Birdies Fore Backpacks” program was designed specifically to fight this chronic issue and, for the third year in a row, it’s the official charity of the Wyndham Championship. The event has had a decades-long history on the PGA Tour. 

“The Wyndham Championship makes its charitable impact with multiple charitable organizations, but all of them help children in one way or another. Our region of North Carolina is one of the worst areas in the country when it comes to childhood food insecurity. It’s common knowledge that a hungry child can’t function properly, and that means that child can’t learn efficiently. If our children aren’t able to learn, their chances of being successful are reduced,” said Mark Brazil, tournament director, Wyndham Championship. “We wanted to help our region’s children to learn, by doing our part to help them have enough food to eat. We can’t fix this problem completely, but with support from our partners at Wyndham Worldwide, we’re helping as much as we can.”

The program’s launch coincided with the tournament’s 75th anniversary in 2014 and, at the time, they chose not to set a specific goal for dollars raised. Raising awareness of the issue was paramount and they sought to encourage businesses and individuals to participate and take ownership. It worked. During its first two campaigns, Birdies Fore Backpacks raised nearly $350,000 to help feed hungry children in the Piedmont Triad, according to the brand. In 2016, the program received a $100,000 seed donation from the Wyndham Worldwide Charitable Foundation, the tournament’s official charity partner.

“Many of our tournament sponsors have made donations, and individuals have made donations or pledges of a certain amount of money for each birdie made by PGA Tour professionals during official tournament play. With significant assistance from the Wyndham Worldwide Charitable Foundation, Birdies Fore Backpacks raised about $350,000 in its first two years,” said Brazil. “It’s far too early to know what the program raised in 2016, but with a $100,000 seed donation from the Wyndham Worldwide Charitable Foundation, we already know we’ll make significant additional impact after this year’s donations are complete.” 

Wyndham’s philanthropy falls under its corporate responsibility program and it’s the community-service efforts activated on a local and global scale for numerous organizations and causes that illustrate the brand’s mission of “Traveling Together for a Better World.”

“It’s focused on future generations and children, as well as education, wellness and conservation,” said Faith Taylor, SVP, corporate social responsibility, Wyndham Worldwide. “When we decided to partner with and develop the Wyndham Championship, we knew one in four Americans face this issue, but in that region, they ranked 9th in all of the U.S. for food insecurity. We wanted to help with the economic development of that region and it was about the children. Birdies Fore Backpacks provides meals to young children in the Piedmont Triad and through key food banks, provide backpacks on Fridays to children and the children take it home and help the whole family in terms of food. It’s fantastic.”

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes an army of caring individuals to execute Wyndham’s program to help address the food insecurity in the area on an ongoing basis.  

“It’s a multi-tier strategy for a program such as this. There is a PGA golf program, there’s a Wyndham Championship team leader there who oversees implementation of the golf championship, as well as our company’s corporate responsibility group and we work with internal and external communications,” said Taylor. “And, most important are the actual charities executing this. We work with them; we recognize and thank them because the work happens all year-round. The program is planned nine months in advance. Starting in January, we start all over again. Because we’ve been doing it for so many years, a lot of charities participate and work as volunteers at the championship and help at various holes in terms of tracking results, taking pictures and getting people to sign up for different programs at the course. Those volunteers help us make it happen.”

What’s most important to Wyndham is the impact being made among children in the region, noted Taylor. “It’s all about holistically offering a program that not only gives back, but does good for the community and that’s a huge piece,” she said. 

—Corris Little