LEVEL FIELD FOUNDATION


Out of Memphis and Into the NFL Draft
April 26, 2009, 8:35 pm
Filed under: News, Sports Media

aaron-curry

Becoming a successful NFL player is a momentous task, even for top draft picks.  For Aaron Curry and Michael Oher, two of the top 23 picks in the NFL Draft, this challenge pales in comparison to what they’ve had to overcome to make it this far. 

Curry, who was rated the draft’s #1 prospect by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the 4th pick.  When his name was announced, he was flanked by Bryson Merriweather, a 12-year-old Leukemia patient whom Curry had met at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, TN.  Bryson was diagnosed with Leukemia when he visited the hospital after falling short of breath at a football game — in other words, football literally saved his life. 

Curry credits football with helping him to emerge from his tough neighborhood and earn a scholarship at Wake Forest.  Based on this kinship, Curry invited Bryson as his guest of honor at the draft.  Earlier this week, they shared a day of fun in New York City.

Michael Oher, a First Team All-America offensive lineman from Ole Miss, was drafted 23rd overall by the Ravens.  Watching the large, gracious young man getting teary-eyed on camera (“I made it to the NFL!”), it’s hard to believe that, just seven years ago, he was homeless. 

Oher’s estranged mother was a crack addict, his father was out of the picture, and Michael bounced between Memphis foster homes for years.  Having failed multiple grades and exhibiting a low IQ, Michael was in danger of becoming a dropout and a statistic.  But, because of his grandmother’s dying wish, Michael made a last-grasp effort to get into the local Briarcrest Christian School.  The school recognized Michael’s athletic potential, but was leery of his academic struggles.  That’s when fate intervened.

Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, whose daughter attended the school, learned of Michael’s story and agreed to take him in.   Armed with his first stable home in years, and given the help of a dedicated tutor, Michael became academically eligible, and earned a scholarship at Ole Miss.  His story is told in “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” a book by the brilliant author Michael Lewis.

The generosity of Aaron Curry and the triumph of Michael Oher are two archetypal tales that speak to the transcendent power of sports.  The football gridiron is often filled with strife and conflict, but its gladiators are often capable of showing ample humanity once they escape the field of battle.

“The Blind Side” will soon be made into a major motion picture.  For Michael Oher and Bryson Merriweather, who each hit (and emerged from) rock bottom in Memphis, the Hollywood Ending is already here.

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A Father-Son Love That Never Gets Old
April 20, 2009, 3:04 am
Filed under: News, Sports Media

Rick Hoyt is 47 years old.  He can’t talk or walk.  When he was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, and his subsequent life has been spent virtually motionless due to a debilitating case of cerebral palsy.  And yet…

“When I’m running, I don’t feel disabled.”

Rick will cross the finsh line at tomorrow’s Boston Marathon, just like he has at numerous marathons over the years (not to mention six triathalons) — often in less than three hours.  In each case, his movement was fueled (literally) by his tenacious and loving father, Dick.

Running 26.2 miles at 68 years old is decidedly impressive; doing so while pushing another human being the entire way is absolutely mind-blowing.  Dick Hoyt brings pure humanity to superhuman achievement.

Get the inside story on the Hoyts in this Boston Globe interview, and an additional video interview with Dick Hoyt.

The Hoyts have been trailblazers on the path to equality for disabled athletes.  Their initial attempts to gain official entrance into competitions were rebutted, and they felt unwelcome — but they didn’t give up.  Two decades later, they are triathalon hall-of-famers, and a unified inspiration to us all.

A common misconception about persons with disabilities is that they are devoid of humor.  The logic behind this thinking is either that they aren’t capable of such thinking, or that their often difficult existence leaves them too downtrodden to find joy in life.  In our experience, the opposite is true — and Rick Hoyt’s sentiment on his future sums it up nicely:

I asked (Rick), “Do you worry about the day when your dad can’t push you through races anymore?” It took Rick about three minutes to type his answer. The computer attached to his wheelchair can speak the words that he types, and when he finished, this is what the computer said: “Hopefully some nice young good-looking woman will take dad’s place.” And then Rick laughed.

Well played, Rick.  Good luck tomorrow…



The Other C.C.
April 13, 2009, 2:44 am
Filed under: Sports Media

CC Sabathia, Baseball, New York Yankees

We both live within two blocks of Fenway Park, and love the Red Sox, but we can’t help but admire the work of new Yankee C.C. Sabathia, who has shown a great commitment to inner-city and disabled youths.  This excerpt is taken from a recent SI cover story:

Sabathia bought a batting cage for Vallejo High one year, paid to resurface the North Vallejo Little League fields another.

Once he signed his Yankees contract in December, Sabathia stepped it up. In February he asked to meet with Vallejo High athletic director Tami Madson and football coach Mike Wilson and his wife, school board member Hazel Wilson, and told them he wanted to supply the football, basketball and baseball teams with new uniforms—a gift Madson estimates at $100,000, more if footwear is included. Then Sabathia turned to Hazel and asked her to set up two college scholarships, Charlie Hustle awards in memory of his cousin Nathan.

With Margie serving as his local point person, Sabathia also pledged more than 400 backpacks, each filled with supplies, to the kids at his elementary school, Loma Vista, and is putting the finishing touches on a plan to overhaul his old Little League complex for next spring, complete with new scoreboards, dugouts and concession stands. Long-term? “I want to do a baseball academy, a Boys & Girls Club–type thing in north Vallejo, indoor fields: Have a bus pick up kids from each elementary school, have them come do homework for 90 minutes, then the rest is baseball,” he says.

Last September, during a Brewers series with the Cubs, Sabathia flew Hobbs, his high school coach, into Chicago. He still considers Hobbs a second father, the man who, he says, “saved all of us” by teaching boys in the Crest not just to play baseball, which is the easy part, but also to love the work the game demands. Weekends, Hobbs would have CC and his buddies hustling from early morning until well past dark, and it didn’t end there. He’d turn his car lights on the batting cage, burning out one or two batteries a season so the boys could keep hitting.

Hobbs’s oldest son, Luke, grew up around CC and is severely autistic. In Chicago, Abe and CC talked baseball and reminisced about a trip they’d made to Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park when CC was 14. Sabathia casually asked him about a treatment machine called a “hug box” that has proved to be effective in calming autistic patients—and, at $5,000, costs more than Hobbs could afford.

“I got back from Chicago, and the machine was at my house,” Hobbs says. “CC didn’t mention it.”

No matter which AL East team you prefer, you have to admire C.C.’s commitment to less fortunate kids.  We hope you’ll help us in our drive to do the same.  Donate today and help some great kids.



Grand Opening of the Jaime M. Adams Miracle League Field
April 7, 2009, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Coming Soon
Blueprint of Jamie M. Adams Field

Blueprint of Jamie M. Adams Field

On May 16th, Level Field will open its first multi-purpose field in East Greenbush, NY.  The opening of this field will be the culmination of hard work and your support. The opening will benefit the Greenbush Miracle League, an organization  that gives year-round athletic opportunities to disabled children across Upstate NY.

The field will be a centralized and safe place for the Miracle League to run its numerous sports leagues and will benefit handicapped youths within a 100 mile radius.

We cant wait to unveil our first league and benefit the Miracle League!!

Mark your calendars!! May 16th is just around the corner!!!



Become a Fan!
April 7, 2009, 10:14 pm
Filed under: News

The Level Field Foundation Facebook Fan Page

You can now all become  fans of Level Field through Facebook. Join our new fan page and support our great cause.

Participate in our discussion board, view our videos and find out how you can help out.

Show your support! Look for us on Facebook!