Adaptive golf program gets new life as OhioHealth Fore Hope

In 1989, Mindy Derr founded Fore Hope. Her father, an avid golfer, had become disabled after he retired.

“I had heard about other programs in the nation to help people with life barriers. My background was in nonprofit, and I thought, ‘You know, I think maybe I could get something going for my dad and other people,’” Derr says.

Mindy Derr

The organization’s adaptive golf programs helped thousands of people in the Central Ohio region for more than two decades.

Derr says the nonprofit made it through the 2008, 2009 recession relatively easily. But around 2012, the group lost a major corporate funder. Its financial stability and the very future of the organization were threatened.

“Mindy reached out to not just us, but some other organizations, to look at how a partnership might come that would keep the Fore Hope program viable,” says Dr. Janet Bay, neurosurgeon and system vice president of OhioHealth’s Neuroscience program. “In talking with some of the participants and looking at the program and what it offered, it seemed like a wonderful extension of our other neuroscience program offerings here at OhioHealth.”

Dr. Janet Bay

Derr says Fore Hope spent all of 2016 working on its relationship with OhioHealth, and the nonprofit ceased to be an independent organization last fall, officially becoming OhioHealth Fore Hope.

Finding the fit

It took time to educate OhioHealth’s leadership as to why it should acquire another not-for-profit, Bay says.

“Like anything else in business, some things are not fast and this was a lengthy courtship, if you will,” she says.

The concept wasn’t foreign to Bay, whose neuroscience group had already absorbed “Delay the Disease,” an evidence-based fitness program designed for people with Parkinson’s disease. But she had to paint a picture about how therapeutic golf could help fill in the continuum of care for OhioHealth’s patients.

While OhioHealth is a large organization, it has different business units within it. Bay says neuroscience is an area where the team has a great passion for taking care of the patient population and that can translate into a willingness to do things that are not typical, like Fore Hope.

For Derr, she says nonprofits are always looking for a succession plan because it’s critical to have people carry on your work. Fore Hope had worked with OhioHealth’s therapists already, and that helped cement the deal.

“It was a natural fit, which is why we just kept hoping and praying and believing that this would just simply be the next step for Fore Hope,” Derr says.

It took five years to find an answer to what was going to happen to the organization. She says the key was patience and understanding that she and her board had to live with the outcome. However it turned out, they knew they tried their best.

Once the deal went through, Derr felt relieved, but then anxious all over again about whether Fore Hope would live up to OhioHealth’s expectations.