When good hearts get together great things can happen. That’s been the case since Meijer, a family-owned business started in 1934 that now has food stores in six Midwest states, started stocking shelves at food pantries in 2008 through its Simply Give program. And that has been the case since 2014 when the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give began adding to that charitable initiative, helping to feed the hungry.
And when last year’s winner – So Yeon Ryu – gave $100,000 of her paycheck to Simply Give, the alliance between Meijer and the LPGA went to a whole new level. The five tournaments have generated $4.3 million for food pantries in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Since Meijer started Simply Give, it has generated more than $48 million for food pantries.
Ryu, whose first LPGA win was the 2011 U. S. Women’s Open, a major title added to by the 2017 ANA Inspiration, picked up her sixth victory at the 2018 Meijer, closing with a 67 to win by two-strokes over Caroline Masson. But the key moment in Ryu’s week may have been before the tournament started.
"On Pro-Am day, I was joined with the CEO of Meijer and had a chance to learn more about the Simply Give program," Ryu said. "I decided to donate to the program if I win this tournament and that became my motivation. I am very happy that I could keep the promise to myself."
By giving one-third of her prize to Simply Give, Ryu displayed her desire to help those in need.
“Thanks to So Yeon Ryu’s generosity, the impact of the Meijer LPGA Classic is extended to additional hungry neighbors in the communities we serve,” said Rick Keyes, president and CEO of Meijer.
“I had the opportunity to spend time with her during tournament week and explain the importance of the Simply Give program,” Keyes said. “We’re thankful at just how much she appreciates and supports what our tournament is trying to accomplish.”
In 2018, the Meijer Simply Give program donated more than $8.5 million – the equivalent of 4.5 million gallons of milk – to Midwestern food pantries. Then the Meijer family said it was making an additional gift of more than $2 million to Simply Give.
“My dad once said, ‘I want to leave the world in a little better shape than when I entered it,’” said Executive Chairman Hank Meijer. “We believe he achieved that dream, but also that it lives on through the Simply Give program that feeds hungry families in the communities we serve – with help from our generous customers, team members and food pantry partners.”
The $2 million donation will be divided among the more than 400 food pantries participating in the Simply Give program.
“Recently, it has become clearer just how vital food pantries are to an increasing number of families across the Midwest, and why programs like Simply Give continue to make a difference in the communities we serve,” Keyes said. “Our company has a heritage of giving, and that philosophy guides us today.”
During each Simply Give campaign, customers are encouraged to purchase a $10 donation card which is converted into a Meijer Food-Only Gift Card given to the local food pantry selected by the store. Each year, Meijer donates more than 6 percent of its net profit to charities with hunger the primary focus, but education, disaster relief, and health and wellness also among the initiatives.
The most-recent Simply Give campaign raised more than $2.8 million, which equals more than 1.6 million cartons of eggs. The current donation campaign ends at the conclusion of this year’s tournament.
And this year, Meijer and the LPGA are making it easier for moms to attend the tournament by creating a Family Care Area for nursing mothers.
“The Family Care Area at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give – the first facility of its kind on the LPGA Tour – will make it so easy for Grand Rapids families to enjoy world-class golf,” said Ricki Lasky, the LPGA’s chief tournament business officer.
“The LPGA Tour has 11 mothers actively playing and three more players are expecting this year, and so many of our fans have young families of their own,” Lasky said. “It’s remarkable that the Meijer LPGA Classic has taken the initiative to create this experience for spectators.”
The Kimberly Clark Family Care Area is an air-conditioned tent with locking rooms for lactation stations and diaper changing stations with a waiting area for kids and families. It will be open from Wednesday through Sunday of tournament week
“The support Meijer has provided for us moms on tour has been amazing,” said 20-time LPGA winner Cristie Kerr, the mother of two. “We are creating a new normal, traveling with our kids to compete in tournaments, and it’s great to see the progress over time. The Meijer LPGA Classic is an event I look forward to every year and I am so excited to see the new Family Care Area that they are creating this year.”
In every sense of the word, the Meijer Classic has been a win-win situation. Great players have hoisted the championship trophy and the LPGA and its members have helped raise money for a great cause. And now, it is making it easier for families to enjoy great golf.
The Meijer Classic for Simply Give is another way in which LPGA players have never stopped acting like a Founder, and another way in which the spirit of the tour and its partners Drives On.