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With new school program, Ben Curtis targets childhood hunger in his own backyard

Ben and Candace Curtis’s interest in childhood hunger began four years ago, when they watched a Dateline NBC special that followed an underprivileged family around for a week.

The winner of four PGA Tour events and his wife are parents of 6-year-old Liam and 5-year-old Addie. The television show touched a nerve and opened their eyes.

“These people had to choose between paying their utility bills versus eating. And they had three small children,” Candace said. “The kids were throwing bones in the garbage and the mom was in the trash saying, ‘We can make soup with those bones.’ I thought, ‘I wonder if that’s more of an issue than people are talking about?’”

Ben’s breakthrough came with his improbable victory in the 2003 British Open, but the Curtises took their time establishing the Ben Curtis Family Foundation, now awaiting approval by the Internal Revenue Service. The Kent State graduates finally settled on a project in Candace’s hometown of Kent, where they have lived for the past two years after moving from Stow.

On May 24, they held a trial run of their “Ben’s Birdie Bags” program at Holden Elementary School.

The Curtises learned that more than 70 percent of the students at Holden participated in the free or reduced lunch programs, according to Tom Larkin, assistant superintendent of Kent City Schools.

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