With all the trouble going on in the world, let's try to focus on the good ...
Last night, Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida hosted the Hope Bash to benefit Place of Hope at the Leighan and David Rinker Campus.
Let's first go back:
Less than a year ago, Tiel from XPE Sports Academy started training me for the Miss Florida USA pageant. Out of the kindness of her heart, she worked with me on creating the body image I longed for. She saw potential in me and a desire to better myself. She knew I had a dream to make a difference in this world through my stories, so she dedicated her mornings and evenings for nearly six months to help me achieve my goal so I could inspire others. As the two of us grew to become great friends, she introduced me to Place of Hope.
Place of Hope is the largest, faith-based children's organization in Palm Beach County that seeks to provide a continuum of care to help better the lives of youth and children in desperate need ... One main focus is the transitional process in and out of the foster care system. They provide housing, food, educational programs, career development and opportunities, just to name a few ... but the most recently developed service Place of Hope offers that I've been able to witness evolve before my own eyes is educational athletics.
Tony & Tiel Villani of XPE Sports Academy in conjunction with Jim (JP) Pastore have opened up their several thousand square foot facility to the children of Place of Hope. They've implemented open gym programs for Place of Hope so the kids can for one, be exposed to a state-of-the-art facility and an experience of a lifetime, but more importantly, to see how attainable dreams and goals can be if you just have a little hope.
I witnessed Tony give a speech a few months ago about why he got involved with adolescent athletics and it was extremely moving. It was short and sweet and I don't remember the speech word for word, but I recall him explaining how he appreciates the way education and athletics correlate ... that when kids play sports, they feel inclined to do better in school because without eligibility in the classroom and maintaining a certain GPA, you can't participate in athletics. So, if you want to play the sport, you've got to actively participate in the classroom. JP, Tony and Tiel make sure that opportunity exists for these kids.
Last night, Tony and Tiel, with the assistance of Kansas City Chief Eric Berry and New Orleans Saint Mark Ingram, put together an auction package for the children of Place of Hope to have dinner with the selected athletes to help raise money for the organization. Not only would the experience be really cool, but it would demonstrate that with hard work and dedication to something you're passionate about, anything is possible.
Eric Berry is NFL Nation's midseason Comeback Player of the Year. He was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2014, but recently finished cancer treatments and is already back on the field actively participating in the NFL. Mark Ingram was a 2011 first round draft pick and is a Heisman Trophy Winner. Tony is the elite trainer who is responsible for sending countless first and second round draft picks to the NFL combine every year, and Jim is an advocate for positive change and bettering opportunities.
These people, along with Philadelphia Eagles 2013 NFL draft pick Earl Wolff who was in attendance last night and made a generous donation to Place of Hope for school supplies, are the epitome of what I believe in ... Dreams don't work unless you do. But when you have a dream, whether it be to play professional football, get healthier or to simply have a place to call home, and you attach your mind, heart and soul to it, no matter who you are or where you come from, you have the ability to achieve it ... And if you can't do it alone, great people like JP, Tony, Tiel, Earl, Eric and Mark and organizations like Place of Hope are there to help make a difference.
These above mentioned people recently stepped in to expose children to opportunities that would otherwise be nonexistent. They selflessly give to others because they fully understand the way the world works ... You can certainly focus on the negative, go into a deep depression and have the life sucked out of you. Or ... You can proactively try to make the best of your situation and have hope ... or rather ... A place of hope.
I know the above mentioned people are discreet about everything they do and are extremely humble when it comes to any sort of recognition, but it is with great respect that I mention how unbelievably generous these people have been, not only to people in desperate need, but to me, my family and my friends.
I witnessed hope come alive last night when one lucky bidder won the experience of having dinner with Eric Berry and the Place of Hope Children for a $2,500 donation that will go directly towards programs for the kids and families at Place of Hope.
When you have doubts about the world we live in and why people do the things they do or act the way they act, think about the great people who step in to take action to help make a difference in a positive way. When we are weak or distracted from our faith, we become a target for negativity and doubt. Last night though, everyone was fully present in helping change lives for the better and today, we are one step closer to helping children in need grow into educated, strong adults who can help make this world a better place.
I personally want to thank XPE for being my mental therapy center in becoming the best human being I can be. Tony & Tiel have brought me in as an XPE AM trainer to help assist people, who have dreams of bettering themselves physically and mentally in the gym, become great. You guys are awesome & I am so grateful to call you all my friends! Thanks for all you do and have done for me and my family. XPE is my place of hope. I encourage you to go find yours!