I have had a long journey on my way to creating Adopt-a-Gym. As a child, I faced many of the challenges that we fear our students never will have to face! I lived in a household riddled with poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, illness and death.
These challenges taught me so many lessons:
One lesson my mother was sure to teach me before she passed away when I was 13 was EMPATHY. Even though we were living at or below poverty level, my mother made it a normal occurrence to give away food to those homeless we encountered in the streets, even though we were ourselves relying on eating 3+ meals per week at the local church.
A turning point in my life was the time I learned HUMANITY. I had moved to a new school for about a year when my mother passed away. This was a suburban school where I felt like an outsider as a New York City boy. The only real connection I felt to the school was the athletic teams I was on. So I was incredibly shocked when seven classmates pooled their money together to purchase me two tickets to my favorite sports team, the New York Knicks, as a “get well” gift when I returned to school. It was accompanied by a card with over 200 signatures inside! I was floored by their kindness! This changed my view on humanity as a whole and set in concrete my desire to make a difference in the lives of others. Passing the buck became my new mantra!
Fast forward ten years to my second teaching job in Alexandria, Virginia to teach at Charles Barrett Elementary School. This school was nothing like the first school I worked at, P.S. 138 in Brooklyn. P.S. 138 had over 1,400 students and an barren gym closet, whereas Barrett was flourishing with more equipment than I could ever dream of. Then I won the Marine Corps Marathon Healthy School Award two years in a row, totaling $1,500 in prize money for P.E. equipment. I was stricken with guilt for how fortunate I was with the surplus of resources we had, while there are schools like 138 and the other public schools I attended as a child that had little to nothing.
Alive was the idea of Adopt-a-Gym!