An experience Friends of the Children will never forget!
During the week leading up to the game against the 49ers, the excitement was palpable in the Friends office. The air of anticipation mixed with the smell of shoe paint and scotch-guard. Five youth and their mentors had been feverishly decorating their own pair of Nike high-tops to present to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Each one of the shoes was given to them by the Russell and Ciara’s Why Not You Foundation and they were being decorated with their hopes and dreams: Anita* with a pencil to represent her love for math, Drake* with a basketball to represent his athletic aspirations and Morgan* with a bible verse that gives him the inspiration to push on towards a better future. One big pair of shoes waited in the Executive Director’s office. This particular pair of oversize Nikes was to be given to Russell on the day before his game. Mentors stopped by Steve’s office to sign the shoe with a message of thanks to Russell and Why Not You and Tasha spent hours with an ample supply of glitter, making sure that Russell’s shoes would have the requisite bling.
Dreams began to unfold for these youth and their mentors on the day before the game. Russell had invited the youth and their mentors to the Seahawks practice facility to watch practice in person. What Russell didn’t know is that the Friends kids had each designed their own shoes and had a special shoe to give to Russell. The youth all watched in awe from the sidelines as the literally larger-than-life Seahawks ran through their plays. And after practice, Russell walked right over to the group and gave each a pound, a high-five or a hug and started what became an hour of getting to know our kids and their hopes and dreams.
Russell started by asking Anita* to unveil his special cleats for Sunday’s game. Decorated with images of youth of all colors and sizes, it represented Why Not You’s commitment to youth of all backgrounds. Russell asked Jace* to read the dog tag attached to the tongue of the shoe, and Jace looked at him and exclaimed, “My name is on there!” Indeed, Russell had the names of all five youth engraved on the dog tag that he would be wearing in the game.
Russell, the mentors, and the youth walked back to a special practice room, where each of the youth’s and mentor’s shoes was waiting. One-by-one, the youth and mentors shared their designs and motivations with Russell. Over the 30 minutes with Russell, he listened attentively, reflected on each one of the youth’s dreams and shared his own words of inspiration with each one of them. The highlights were innumerable, but when Morgan, an inspiring football defensive back, assured Russell that he would intercept one of his passes, Russell broke up in laughter and assured Morgan that anything is possible.
After the presentation of the shoes, Tasha and her youth, Anita*, surprised Russell with his own pair of shoes. The design included quotes from Russell’s own father, an inspiration in his life, and Russell proceeded to share detailed stories about when and where his father shared each quote. At the end of the time together, Russell implored each youth to sit in the front of their class, always take notes, set goals and never give up. Finally, Russell presented each one of the youth with a pair of specially designed Bose headphones with Why Not You emblazoned on the side and gave each of them a sideline pass to join him the next day on the field when the Seahawks would take on the 49ers at Century Link field.
Before the game against the 49ers was set to begin, the youth and mentors had the exclusive opportunity to go down on the field and watch the players warm-up before the game. When Russell noticed Morgan, he called out for Morgan to catch a ball. On the second try, Morgan caught the pass and performed an elaborate touchdown dance to celebrate. After the warm-up ended, everyone went to their seats to watch the Seahawks destroy the 49ers–an experience no one will ever forget.
*Youth's name changed to protect their identity