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The rain slanted down under sullen skies at Rideau View Golf Club Saturday.
Prodded by a cold wind, the drops splashed through the yawning open garage door which looks onto the practice range at the club's state-of-the art teaching centre.
But not the dark skies, chilly air nor persistent rain could dampen the spirit behind teaching professional Matt Robinson's seventh annual Longest Day of Coaching.
"That was a better turn," Robinson said to Rideau View member Shannon Blaney as she launched another ball out into the drizzle under his watchful eye.
The proceeds from Blaney's lesson and the rest of the members who cued up to take lessons on this day will all be donated to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario by Robinson.
Robinson and wife Dayna have been committed to helping CHEO since twin daughters Kathryn and Kristina were born 12 weeks prematurely eight years ago.
Kathryn had more than her share of challenges after coming into this world weighing less than two pounds. There was a three-month stay at CHEO after her birth followed by eight surgeries including cochlear implants.
"Personally, I knew I needed to give back to CHEO, which is something nearly every family goes through regardless of the outcome for their child. I didn't have a lot of resources to come up with ideas and thought 'If I just coach all day, I could probably raise about $1,500.' That was where my expectations were prior to the very first Longest Day," said Robinson.
Saturday's proceeds will add to the generous $210,000 Robinson said has been raised so far through the Longest Day of Coaching. "Every single dollar is accounted for as my wife works closely with the Major Gifts department to allocate the funds to equipment purchases for Audiology, NICU and other departments. Having my sponsor match contributions up to $20,000 each year is the one reason why this has exceeded all of my expectations," said Robinson.
So there was Robinson out on the practice green Saturday morning at 6:45 giving a putting lesson, a grey toque on his head.
Given the nasty weather conditions, Robinson gave his students the option of being billed Saturday to benefit CHEO and taking their lesson in nicer conditions later or just donating their lesson fee and receiving a tax receipt.
Hardy members like Blaney were showing up for their lessons.
"It's not supposed to be torture," said Robinson. "I take coaching seriously and you should get what you pay for. The day fills up instantly and it's been way above expectations. The membership tells me to keep going."
So he has and CHEO has benefited.
"Matt and Dayna are truly an incredible couple and they continue to inspire the team at CHEO as much as they inspire the very generous members at Rideau View," said Kevin Keohane, CHEO's president and CEO.
"They have channeled their passion and appreciation for CHEO and their love for their children into a very special fundraising event. The Robinsons are amazing ambassadors for CHEO and they always attribute their success to the Rideau View Country Club and its members. I want to thank everyone involved for rallying behind the Robinsons and CHEO and for helping us to serve more than a quarter million patient visits again this year."
"The CHEO cause is important because my daughters came into the world very fragile and it took every bit of expertise and equipment for them to survive," said Robinson. "In those early months I never imagined that I would see both girls where they are today - seemingly normal
"They love school, playing with friends, and giving their parents a tough time every once in a while. We had support from the Rideau View membership, our families and neighbours to help us as a family get through those fragile moments which allowed the CHEO staff to do what they do: save the lives of children."