Signing of the Stars

An Open Letter to Michigan State Fans Regarding Yesterday’s ‘Harbaugh-Palooza’

Dear Michigan State fans,

I was at yesterday’s ‘Signing of the Stars’ event.

I know it was a tad over the top. Okay, I know it was a lot over the top. It was a combination of ESPN Gameday and the Oscars. Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Ric Flair, Jim Leyland, Lou Holtz, Mike Shanahan and Phil Hellmuth all made appearances. Videos of Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Charles Woodson, and Drew Brees were played.

I wouldn’t have been shocked if President Obama himself had taken the stage to inaugurate the 2016 Michigan football recruiting class.

Jim Harbaugh was in his element, working the crowd and having a great time. As crazy as it was, it was fun. You hated it.

Hey, I don’t blame you. I can guarantee Michigan fans would have hated the exact same event had it been “Dantonio-Palooza” instead of the other way around. After all, loathing one another is what sports rivalries are all about. It’s what makes them fun. What pleasure would we get out of genuinely enjoying one another’s success? Lame, I tell you.

ChadTough Decals

Ohio State and Michigan State wore ChadTough helmet decals to honor Chad Carr.

Well, as you (justifiably) chuckled over yesterday’s event, you probably caught wind that it raised more than $110,000 for The ChadTough Foundation. You will remember ChadTough from the time your marching band helped script “#ChadTough” on the field after a win over Michigan. Your players also wore “ChadTough” decals on their helmets to honor him last season.

He was an incredible, silly, fun little boy who, as mom Tammi said yesterday, accomplished more in his five years than many accomplish in a lifetime. See, Chad’s foundation is raising money and bringing much-needed awareness to Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG. It’s an inoperable brain tumor that takes the lives of children within about a year of diagnosis. There is no cure.

The fact that yesterday’s ChadTough fundraising event is creating a stir between Michigan and Michigan State is actually poetic. See, Chad — who came from two Michigan football bloodlines in the Carr and Curtis families — loved to tease his family that he preferred Michigan State over Michigan. It’s something that endears him to Spartans and is part of Chad’s magic.

The ChadTough Foundation is glad to have you mocking Michigan today after yesterday’s event. Not only does it keep the nation talking about ChadTough and DIPG, it’s something Chad undoubtedly would have enjoyed.

So, Spartans, feel free to make fun of Michigan, but don’t forget to smile that little Chad is probably getting a kick out of it. Then donate to The ChadTough Foundation to help him complete his mission that began with his diagnosis on September 23, 2014, and continues with his family’s fight.

The ChadTough Foundation will be a part of the movement that finds a cure for the monster that is DIPG. Once that happens, it will be able to boast that it did so thanks to the undying support from Wolverines and Spartans alike.

Sincerely,

One ChadTough Supporter who just happens to wear Maize and Blue

DONATE

Brooke Healey

1 Fact About DIPG That Will Spring You to Action

vote ChadTough

Vote each day for Coach Beilein and ChadTough at espn.com/infiniti.

It’s Day 4 of voting for the Infiniti Coaches Charity Challenge and it’s already felt like an eternity. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’ve learned an eternity’s worth of life lessons in a short three week’s time.

One of my roles within the challenge is to talk to families who have been impacted by DIPG. Some of these families still have little fighters among them, but most of them have already had to say goodbye. What they all already have in common is that they’ve all endured the news that their child is going to die sooner, not later.

The pieces of their stories are so similar, I can almost close my eyes and envision them. The scary wait for test results. Noticing the doctors can’t look you in the eye. Getting the official diagnosis and the devastating fact that treatment for your child’s disease hasn’t progressed in four decades. Having it sink in that your child has just been delivered a death sentence.

The anger. The loneliness. The isolation.

Jack's Angels

Learn more about Jack’s story at jacksangelsfoundation.com/

One mother described the moments that followed her three-year-old son’s diagnosis so vividly. She took him to a playground outside the hospital to let him run around for a bit. He tried, but the effects of the brain tumor were already setting in. His body wouldn’t do what it was told, resulting in jerky movements that not only prevented his play, it scared the other kids. Her heart broke as she watched her little boy want to be like all the other kids, realizing he would never be like all the other kids again.

It’s hard to imagine the pain.

It’s that pain that places so much importance on this contest, not only for the money that could go toward pediatric brain tumor research, but for the exposure this disease needs. These children don’t have a voice. It’s something I’ve heard Tammi Carr say a number of times, but I’m only just now starting to grasp what that really means.

The thing is, statistics are what is driving research dollars, but statistics don’t tell the whole story. Statistics are not human lives. Statistics are not a parent receiving the news that they will have to watch their child suffer and then succumb to death. Statistics don’t paint the picture of what it feels like to have the whole world move on while you have to watch your child deteriorate and then leave you.

To do nothing as that happens to parent after parent after parent is just not right. It’s time to do something, and taking the time to vote each day for Coach John Beilein and The ChadTough Foundation is a small gesture that could make a big change. Brilliant minds are ready and willing to find this cure, but they need the funds to do so.

In talking with one mother about DIPG and the loss of her son, I asked her what she believed to be the biggest misconception about the disease. I expected her to talk about the benefits a cure would have on pediatric brain tumors and cancers as a whole, negating the belief that researching a rare disease would only help a small number of lives. I expected her to talk about the lack of funds dedicated to childhood cancers, negating the belief that sick children are a top priority in our country.

Brooke Healey

Learn more about Brooke’s story at brookehealey.com

I expected her to talk about brain tumors as the leading cause of cancer deaths among children, negating the belief that this isn’t a huge problem to be addressed.

But she didn’t. What she did say caught me completely off guard. What, I asked, is the biggest misconception the public has about this horrific disease?

“It could never happen to me or my child.”

Think about it. That word – “rare” – can lull you into believing that you and your children are untouchable, but the truth is, you aren’t. It could happen to you. It could happen to your niece, your grandchild, your godson, your friend’s child.

It could happen to any of us.

So, as you read about these children suffering from this “rare” disease, put yourself in the shoes of their parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and muster up the anger you would feel if you were met with the devastating fact that treatment for your child’s disease hasn’t progressed in four decades.

Then set a reminder on your phone and vote each day for Coach Beilein and The ChadTough Foundation. Your vote may end up being a small part of a big change.

Big Ten Rivals Unite Over Chad Carr

I will be the first to admit that college teams hate one another. Real, stupid, ridiculous hatred. It’s silly, really. Schools with this loathing that reaches beyond human decency, all because of football, basketball, or some other sport. I’ve been there.

It wasn’t because of the school I went to. I went to Eastern Michigan University, a school known for its track, swimming, and women’s basketball teams. An opportunity while in college, however, had me volunteering with the University of Michigan softball and basketball teams, and I quickly fell in love with the Maize and Blue.

Marrying the men’s basketball sports information director only furthered that romanticism.

Because of my marriage, I held strong loyalty for Michigan basketball, but was chastised by my colleagues because I never went to the school. Many of those colleagues went to Michigan State, and their rude nature left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I learned to loathe Michigan State because of it, a mindset that has lasted until recently.

Honestly, I never would have thought that perspective could change.

Enter Chad Carr.

Tammi and Chad Carr

The photo that stole my heart.

The little boy who stole my heart. It started with the photo of Chad and his mom, Tammi, that I saw after my husband came home with the news that Chad had been diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG. This photo showed Chad looking into the eyes of his momma, and it took me to the many moments I shared with my own two-year-old son. I cried. It hurt.

I then met Chad almost a year later when I helped with his foundation’s 5k in October of 2015 and have since taken on a greater role with his family.

Now the goal is winning $100,000 through University of Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein and the Infiniti Coaches Charity Challenge. I truly believe we will win it.

Why?

Because this little boy has united people who previously loathed one another — people who professed hatred for one another simply for the colors they represented. It seems silly, really, in hindsight. That adults would treat each other with such disrespect simply for the team they cheered for.

Said one supporter of The ChadTough Foundation:

My husband, son and I were just sitting in our family room watching ESPN and my husband said, “this is the first time in my entire life that I’ve ever rooted let alone voted for a coach of ‘that team up North.'” He had just finished voting Coach Beilein.

No sooner did those words come out of his mouth, ESPN went to Stuart Scott’s speech at the Espys. This exact line…

“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.”

We just think this is such a true statement and that it perfectly fits Chad and his family. Their journey has taught such valuable lessons…he didn’t need a reminder but he was given anyway. ? Pretty neat!

ChadTough is as cool as the other side of the pillow!!

We all know how much Ohio State and Michigan fans hate one another … yet here is an Ohio State family loving a Michigan family because of a special little boy who has had a power beyond all of our understanding.

Ohio State with ChadTough decal

Ohio State with its ChadTough decal.

There is no point to this story other than to express awe over Chad Carr and the power he has wielded over so many. His sweet face, brave fight, and selfless family have captured America’s hearts. We don’t know how they do it, but they’re showing all of us what it means to live one day at a time and appreciate what we’ve been given.

That, my friends, is why Coach Beilein and The ChadTough Foundation will win the Infiniti Coaches Challenge. Mark my words.

30 for 30: Broke

Being A Public Figure Does Not Equate to Being Rich and Famous

I am not a contributor to WAGS Redefined because I am an NFL wife, fiancée, or girlfriend. I am a contributor to this website because I spent nearly 10 years in the NFL as a digital media manager. I wrote for a living, built relationships with some amazing people, and was around NFL football all the time. I loved my job.

Just like most “average” sports jobs, the pay wasn’t the greatest. Due to the oversupply of professionals who are ready, willing, and able to work in sports, it’s tough to make much money unless you reach executive level.

What the job did provide me was a look into NFL life that the average American doesn’t have, which is why I feel compelled to comment on Diana Holmes‘ recent WAGS Redefined article, Lifestyle Illusions.

Her dialogue ruffled a few feathers over her frustration that she’s frequently asked for free football tickets when she and her husband get a total of two for every home game and zero for every road game. Now, I understand the disconnect here because very few know what it’s like to work in the NFL. It is certainly not the glamorous, ritzy life portrayed on reality TV, and all the players are certainly not rich.

It is here that I’m hoping to bridge the gap between the average American (which I most certainly am) and the average NFL family (which I am most certainly connected with).

Read my full article on WAGS Redefined

Downtown Boxing Gym

Hope for Detroit can be Found at this Growing Boxing Gym

Donate any amount before 8:59 PM ET to help this free program accept more kids!

Ask any American outside of Michigan to describe the City of Detroit and their initial response probably wouldn’t be positive. Their words would probably support the stereotype that Detroit is laced with crime and poverty, and it would be tough to blame them. Most news that comes out of Detroit is negative and the run-down buildings and dangerous areas leave a lasting impression for those just passing through.

Yes, there are numerous projects in motion to bring business into the city such as Hatch Detroit and the Detroit District, but that doesn’t change the culture. True change in a city like Detroit happens away from the spotlight through blood, sweat, and tears through nonprofits like the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program.

Rooted in Fear

Khali Sweeney grew up in Detroit. His parents struggled with addiction, leaving him to be raised by an older couple he now considers his parents. The anger he felt not being part of a “typical” family grew into a chip on his shoulder that distracted him from his education.

By the time he reached the third grade, he lived in fear that he would be exposed for not being able to read or write, and if he ever found himself in a situation that required either skill, he lashed out as a means of distraction.

He carried on that way until his 20s when his brother delivered a wake-up call.

“It took my brother to actually tell me one day,” remembers Khali. “‘Man, do you realize that all your friends are dead or in prison?’”

It was what Khali needed to move out of his current neighborhood in Detroit and turn his life around.

It All Started with Boxing

Khali began teaching his son and his daughter how to box when other kids started coming around to participate.

“I could see myself in a lot of these kids,” he remembers. “I’m like, this dude is acting out in a way that’s familiar to me. So I’d say, ‘Hey, man, can you read that for me right quick?’”

The more he saw of himself in these kids, the more inspired Khali was to push them in the right direction. First it was boxing, then studying, then he noticed the kids were coming to him hungry.

“Any dime I was getting it was costing me because I was getting food for the kids,” he said. “So I took all of the money I had, I borrowed money, and did what I had to do and I set out and got the building.”

An Abandoned Car Wash

The first Downtown Boxing Gym was a 4,000-foot, condemned abandoned car wash that could fit 30 people comfortably. Khali squeezed in 65 or more on a nightly basis, driving the kids from school to the facility every single day for the program he was providing free of charge.

11917482_976634675716460_7374884265827897344_n

At the old car wash facility in 2011. (Photo: Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program)

He used boxing as both an incentive and a mask to combat bad influences.

“If you can imagine saying, ‘I just left school, I’m about to go to an after-school reading program,’ your friends are going to laugh at you,” said Khali. “They’re going to talk about you so bad until you’re going to be like, ‘Yeah, you’re right. I ain’t going.’

“But if you say, ‘I’m going to a boxing gym,’ they’re going to be like, ‘Oh yeah, for real? Let me come with you. I want to go, too.’ Now I got you here, you might want to hit the bag. But once you hit the bag I’m gonna tell you … before you hit my bag, you gotta touch those books.”

The List

With a 100-percent high school graduation rate since 2007 and a 98-percent mark of kids who have gone on to college, it’s hard to say anything negative about the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program. But Khali has one sore spot. The waiting list.

Even though the program moved into a large facility thanks to donors such as Madonna, the nonprofit still lacks the funds to bring on the more than 500 kids remaining on the waiting list.

It’s a particularly tough pill to swallow for Khali, who sees this program as a lifeline for kids who have nothing else.

“There’s nothing more serious than saving lives,” he said. “When these kids put their lives in your hands, or mothers or fathers put these kids lives in your hands, this is serious business. It’s nothing to play with.”

The Changed Inspire Change

For the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program, the No. 1 priority is the kids, and that kind of selfless giving is what can change the City of Detroit from the inside out.

“I don’t want to make champions,” said Khali, “I want to make good human beings and intelligent people that can do something for the world. Here it is I’m getting the chance to live out my dream which is to give these kids a safe place to go. An alternative to going to the streets.”

You Can Create Change

You can help in Khali’s mission through the Give Detroit Challenge presented by HOUR Detroit. The challenge, which began October 1, is to see which nonprofit in Detroit can raise the most money. The winning group will get an additional $25,000 from challenge sponsors.

As of yesterday (Nov. 10), the Downtown Boxing Gym was $30,000 ahead. Now the gap is closing and it’s up to you to give more kids a safe place to go by donating to the cause and sharing with others. The challenge is in its 11th hour, concluding at 8:59 p.m. ET on November 12.

Let’s all come together and create true change in the City of Detroit.

WAGS Redefined

About NFL Women, For NFL Women, By This NFL Woman

When I worked for the Detroit Lions, I would tell players I was an athlete.

They would respond, “Oh, did you play in college?”

No, professional athlete. No, I did not play in college. I was damn good decent in high school, though, doesn’t that count? I would rattle off a few quality times I clocked in the 800 meter run at the age of 15. That would generate some respect simply because the player I was talking to knew I could probably beat him in the same race. And if by some stretch I couldn’t beat him in the 800, I would at least tout that I could beat him in the mile, for no other reason than no professional football player would be caught dead running a mile at any pace faster than a brisk jog.

Point being, I consider myself an athlete, even if I didn’t play a sport in college. I have always been an athlete. When I stopped playing competitive sports, I started working with some. I was a guest service representative with the Detroit Tigers, a student assistant with the University of Michigan athletic department, and a digital media manager for the Detroit Lions.

Since leaving the Lions, I have represented NFL players in PR, but had resigned myself to never writing about the sport again. Why? Because I’ve never been one to rip players and coaches in print, so there doesn’t seem to be a place for me aside from with a team.

Enter WAGS Redefined.

How awesome is it that I was looking for freelance writing opportunities and stumbled across this one? LeShonda Martin, wife of NFL veteran Sherrod Martin, was looking for contributors to her site. She specifically wanted someone to write about women and families of the NFL. I don’t know that I could have found a more perfect match.

When WAGS Redefined creator LeShonda Martin Googled “NFL wives” in July of 2015, she did it with the intent of finding an organization of wives to connect with. To her dismay, not only did she NOT find a group for wives, but the only results were articles of someone’s opinion on the hottest and prettiest wives and girlfriends of the league. In fact, the number one result on Google was “28 Hottest Wives of the NFL” and there were dozens more with similar titles. This was discouraging to Martin, and she sought out to make a change within her community. Knowing that her husband was against reality television, she decided to use writing to get her point across. Thus, WAGS Redefined was born. Martin desires for WAGSRedefined.com to be the #1 search result for all things NFL women.

As someone who was part of the NFL for nearly 10 years, I understand stereotypes placed on women in athletics. When I would travel with the Lions, I was often referred to as a cheerleader despite carrying my computer bag (the team has also never had cheerleaders), and would be stopped in special access areas despite visibly wearing proper credentials. Once I was asked if I was the team massage therapist. Yeah, I know.

So I was elated to have come across this faith-based project meant to act as a voice for “women of America’s gridiron stars.” Though I’ve never been married to an NFL player, I understand how NFL life works behind the scenes and what women in the NFL go through.

I’m so excited to contribute to the “Around the NFL” section amidst stories about community service, spirituality, career and business, health and wellness, and more!

 

Ryan and Mary Beth Broyles Guests on Fox Business Varney & Co.

The minimum salary for an NFL player in 2014 was $420,000. While this may seem like a lot, the average length of an NFL career is just 3.3 years. Compare that to the $1.8 million college graduates make over a lifetime and it’s clear the run-of-the-mill professional football player isn’t much better off than you or I over the long haul … unless he is smart with his money.

That is what makes former Detroit Lions wide receiver Ryan Broyles such an enigma. Living on a budget of $60,000 per year, he and his wife invested their money and continue to live frugally, turning a few years playing football into potential for lifetime financial stability.

“I feel like I’m a savvy guy,” Broyles told Fox Business. “I’m excited for the future.”

Since signing with the Lions as a second-round draft choice out of Oklahoma in 2012, Broyles has invested in stocks and real estate while pinching. Today he has $1 million stashed away and continues to live a modest lifestyle.

“When I was a rookie in 2012, we went to the Rookie Symposium,” he said. “One of the biggest things that I took heed to was the finance world, talking about 78-percent of athletes go bankrupt three years after they leave the NFL. I was like, ‘That’s not going to be me.’”

Broyles looked up ways to invest his paycheck and took budgeting seriously. It’s an approach not taken by many NFL players, but is one that can be taught and duplicated. If players looked at their initial contract and guaranteed money as a seed to plant for the future, more could dictate their lives after football without having to worry about dollars and cents.

“I think I’m to the point where I get more satisfaction knowing I can get something and then not getting it,” said Broyles. “I’m looking at the long-term.”

While Broyles earned his money in an occupation not many are employed in, his budgeting and investment tips can be applied to anyone. Follow him on LinkedIn to learn more.