Up2Us Sports, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring youth through coaching and sports, welcomed celebrities and pro athletes to its annual gala at Guastavino’s in New York City on Wednesday.
My name is Sean Johnson and I am a veteran of the United States Air Force. I served in the Desert Storm conflict, returned home and was shot in the back in my neighborhood. I was left a paraplegic with little hope from the medical establishment that I would ever walk again. There was a time I thought my life was over but it was just the beginning. Through prayer, a consistent support system and an undeniable desire to walk, I did just that. I actually ran! For several years I was able to walk with the aid of a fixed leg brace. Complications from an ulcer years later resulted in the amputation of my right leg below the knee. I was introduced to wheelchair sports and began playing basketball and tennis. In addition to a host of gold medals from the annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games, I was one of twelve selected in 2014 to represent the East in the NWBA All Star Game in New Orleans.
I’ve always loved sports and being re-acquainted with them after losing my leg helped me to cope with my situation better. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt the need to help someone else. I have a heart for the disabled, veterans and our youth. Working with Up2Us Sports has allowed me to address and service all three of these groups. The training Up2Us Sports provided for me is something I will never forget! I learned how to reach those who are in need, and through the power of sports, guide them to a happier, healthier and more satisfying life.
Sean Johnson began his one-year service term at Philly PAL through Up2Us Sports' Operation Coach Program in August 2016. His position is generously funded by Toyota.
Prince Pieter-Christaan van Oranje-Nassau of the Netherlands came by a Harlem Lacrosse practice to see Up2Us Sports in action. Pieter-Christaan sits on the Laureus global board and is in New York City to run his 10th NYC marathon. He had a chance to speak with Up2Us Sports coach, Eoin Collins, about the team and observe the practice.
Join us to celebrate the power of sports and coaches to encourage at-risk youth to make smarter decisions on and off the field. Visit Up2UsSportsGala.com to view auction items or to purchase tickets and sponsorships.
For this holiday season, will you give a coach? Often when I meet successful adults, I ask them what, if anything, contributed to their accomplishments. Do you know what many of them say?
“It was my high school coach who believed in me…”
“It was my football coach who inspired me…”
“It was my track coach who wouldn’t take ‘no, I can’t’ as an answer from me.”
Anyone who’s ever played sports knows the power of a coach as a mentor and role model. Many of us still remember some of the life lessons that our coaches taught us. But today, the state of youth sports in America is in sharp decline especially in low-income neighborhoods where young people need coaches the most. Schools that face continuing budget cuts have been forced to eliminate youth sports programs. The result is not just gyms that are now empty, but for millions of kids, life lessons that will never be learned.
That's why I am writing this today. I need you to help me reverse this trend. I dream of a country in which every child has a coach who believes in him, who helps her get through school, who teaches him a healthier lifestyle, and who inspires her to believe in success. This is not just about sports; it’s about improving educational outcomes, reducing youth violence and ending childhood obesity.
My program, Coach Across America, has hired and trained over 1,750 coaches to work with more than 260,000 disadvantaged youth over the past six years. These coaches have motivated kids to be the first in their families to go to college. They have influenced kids to say no to gangs and violence. They have encouraged children to exercise and make better nutritional choices.
Half of the coaches I have hired have been women. Most of the coaches I've hired have come from the same community where they serve. An increasing number of coaches I've hired are veterans returning from war who have discovered that the values they upheld abroad are just as valuable here at home. The values of teamwork, leadership, and discipline define success on a basketball court, in a classroom, in a community, and throughout a lifetime.
That’s why I’m asking you to give a coach this holiday season. I will use your donation to hire and train more coaches to inspire more youth to overcome challenges in this nation’s poorest communities. I can promise you that your donation will have impact. We have undergone an external evaluation and found that every dollar you donate saves this country $29 in costs associated with poor health, neighborhood violence, and kids dropping out of school.
I won’t stop until we build a national workforce of trained coaches who ensure that all children learn these lessons and discover their own capacity for success.
Won’t you help me get there?
Paul Caccamo Up2Us Sports CEO & Founder
For the last five years, we have been hard at work using sports to improve the lives of at-risk youth across the country. Take a look at our first ever annual report, documenting the impact we made in the 2013-2014 program year. We look forward to continuing to promote sports as the best vehicle for change in our underserved communities! Email email@example.com with any questions.