Preparing Youth For Success: The Adrian Peterson Foundation
Adrian Peterson is a former hall of fame running back for the NFL Chicago Bears and Georgia Southern University who grew up with a speech impediment. The AP Foundation celebrated its first event to honor the special impact he's made on a young person who is overcoming the same challenges.
"It is the story of anyone who has ever suffered from a disability, anyone who has ever felt they were not good enough or talented enough to reach the stars," words from Adrian Peterson's book, "Don't Dis My Abilities."
Meet my friend, Adrian Peterson (you can call him AP). We go way back. Back to my freshman year orientation at Georgia Southern University when I saw pictures and stats of the only two jerseys that have been retired by the school – one of which was his. Throughout my years at GSU, I would see other students post pictures with the hall-of-famer and regret not being in the right place at the right time to also get my picture with the legend himself. When I had the chance to meet him at the 2015 Homecoming game on behalf of South, I had no idea of his struggles or what all he has worked to overcome. Like any average person's experience with a celebrity figure, I expected it to be nerve-racking. Instead, meeting AP that day was the beginning of a motivating experience that I am overjoyed to be a part of: The Adrian Peterson Foundation.
I am almost embarrassed to admit this, but before meeting AP, he was only a football celebrity to me. From 1998-2001, Peterson played football at Georgia Southern University, finishing his college career with 6,559 rushing yards. He then played as a running back for the Chicago Bears for eight seasons. Winning multiple awards in college, including the Walter Peyton Award his sophomore year, recognition for Peterson's abilities never seemed to be a problem. After reading "Don't Dis My Abilities" and meeting Nehemiah Jackson, I realized there is more to the story.
"It is the story of anyone who allows their shortcomings to overshadow their talents," says Peterson, chairman of The Adrian Peterson Foundation. Peterson dealt with a different type of overshadow. Growing up, AP struggled with stuttering. But despite the teasing and daily challenges Peterson faced, he didn't let it define him. Instead, he harnessed his drive and determination toward his football career. But even with all his athletic accolades, Adrian Peterson still believes that accepting his stutter was one of his biggest accomplishments.
The Adrian Peterson Foundation is a non-profit organization whose goal is to empower children and communities who may be struggling with speech impediments or any other issues. Peterson travels the country to different schools and community centers to discuss the power of determination and prayer and how to overcome any obstacle, big or small. It only seemed right to hold the event in his old stomping grounds, where Peterson has mentored younger patients at The Therapy Spot, the number one center for speech, physical, and occupational therapy in the area.
Meet Caroline Bowman, MEd, CCC-Speech-Language Pathologist and Nehemiah Jackson.
At the event, The Therapy Spot's owner, Caroline Bowman shared information about speech therapy and gave the audience insight on ways The Therapy Spot works with their patients. I was overwhelmed with chills listening to Nehemiah share a few words in front of the audience.
"Even though stuttering is sort of a disability, it has given me a lot of opportunities as a result, like speaking at this banquet. When I first met Adrian Peterson, he gave me a "Pray. Perform. Persist." shirt as a reminder to keep on going through the hard times," Nehemiah said wearing a big smile.
Caroline Bowman shared a Maya Angelou quote during her speech that is a mantra to her practice and AP as a mentor. "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud." Peterson's faith and perseverance are the rainbows in countless lives. These are his gifts that he believes make up for a wish to stop stuttering that was never granted. His disability instead has helped grant the wishes of others, like Nehemiah.
The Adrian Peterson Foundation is expecting to raise over $10,000 this year for children with disabilities and speech therapy research. Also in the running for the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame (to be announced 2017: learn more), I'd say that we have some big things underway. Anyone who'd like to get in on the action and help us to help AP change the lives of our young people, please contact Nate Shaffer.
The Adrian Peterson Foundation Advisory Board (from L to R): Nate Shaffer (Vice President), Mary Thomas Pickett, Richard Deal, Adrian Peterson (Chairman), Gloria Morgan, Will Broadman, Hope Aldred. Not pictured: Dana Potts and Nichole Hearn.