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Celebrating Greatness in Action!

Do Unto Others…
They know character is defined by how they treat those who cannot help them.

My hero, John Wooden, famously remarked: “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” This week, I got to witness a perfect day.

On Tuesday, I was in Topeka, Kansas, visiting the insurance-marketing company, Advisors Excel. It was my seventh time speaking for the company this year, three of those have been in its hometown of Topeka. I always enjoy my visits to the city. This time, however, they had a surprise in store for me.

After the speech, company founders informed me that they had been so inspired by the story in my speech of retired NFL running back Warrick Dunn and his incredible generosity following the murder of his police officer mother during a botched robbery, that they decided to act upon Dunn’s example. Upon hearing how Dunn now provides the down payment, all the furnishings, and a fully-stocked pantry, cabinets, and lawncare shed for single parents in honor of his mother’s memory, the team at Advisors Excel had decided to invest their own money and sweat equity with Habitat for Humanity and help outfit a home for local single mother of four, Dawn Pershall. Dozens of the company’s employees had spent several days building furniture, shopping for age-appropriate toys for each child and unloading canned goods.

They told me they had arranged it so that I would be there as the keys were handed to Dawn for her family’s new home—that very morning.

As we drove to the site, I was so overcome with emotion that I couldn’t even text Warrick to tell him about the incredible act that his efforts inspired. It turned out, I didn’t need to: When we arrived at the house, Warrick Dunn was waiting there with a huge grin on his face! As his foundation looked to expand into more cities, the folks at this amazing company had convinced him to add Topeka to his list.

Celebrating Greatness in Action!

But as incredible as the surprise was for me, it was nothing compared to the surprise of the Pershall family when they arrived. After investing more than 200 volunteer hours with Habitat for Humanity, Dawn had thought things had fallen through with her house and that her family would have to wait a little longer to move into their new home. She had no idea that her house was being furnished and stocked by a local company and a national sports hero.

I was overwhelmed as I had the chance to stand with Dawn and her family as Warrick presented her with the key, and she was overwhelmed as the reality of homeownership became real. “Is this my new address?” she asked with a smile and tears in her eyes as she signed the paperwork.

But I think the most overwhelming moment of the whole day was when one of her sons, upon opening the pantry and cheering at the supply of macaroni and cheese, canned vegetables, pasta, and other non-perishables inside, remarked: “You know, they’re doing a food drive at the shelter. Now we have stuff we can give!”

Clearly, the Pershall children already understand the Great lesson of doing unto others…

Something to Consider

Warrick Dunn

I’ve told Warrick Dunn’s story before in my speeches, in this newsletter, and in the book I helped him write, and I have been present as several of his home unveiling ceremonies. But I had a new realization this week, thanks to this incredible opportunity provided by Advisors Excel: The most significant part of what these homes offers is not just a beautiful tribute to Warrick’s late mother, but a chance to change the course of history for the families that receive them.

This morning, 348 children woke up each morning in their own home—with a sense of permanence, security, and pride—because of this foundation. In fact, the University of South Florida partnered with the Warrick Dunn Foundation to examine just what kind of far-reaching impact his work might have on the children impacted, and the results were incredible. Two-thirds of the parents were able to pay for more extra-curricular activities for their children, more than half reported an increase in respect from their children, 70% reported an increase in their children’s educational performance, and 76% reported a sense of hope for better futures for their children—all after the family took possession of their new home.

"You can't live a perfect day withour doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you." - John WoodenWatching Dawn Pershall and her children laugh, cry, and immediately think about how their good fortune could allow them to help others, made me consider what each of those four children will accomplish as they grow up—and what any of those 348 children will be capable of with this helping hand to give them a chance at a new life.

Thank you to Advisors Excel and to the Warrick Dunn Foundation for showing me how true Greatness can inspire others, ignite opportunity, and have in impact far into the future.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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