Wide receiver Brad Smith’s NFL experience has taken him from New York, to Buffalo and now to Philadelphia. But, he has never forgotten his Youngstown, Ohio roots.
Smith, who was drafted by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft out of the University of Missouri, and his wife Rosalynn, started the Brad Smith True Foundation seven years ago in the hopes of showing children in his hometown that there were vast opportunities for them outside of their immediate environment if they took the appropriate steps.
The Smiths had been active in community work for a long time, but decided the best way to focus their efforts was to start a foundation. They saw how effective the foundation of their close friends, Jerricho (then also a wide receiver with the Jets now with the Panthers) and Mercedes Cotchery was, and decided that was the direction they wanted to go.
“The foundation allows you to raise money the right way and have a banner over your head,” Smith said.
They decided to target children in Smith’s hometown realizing that many of them didn’t see, or know how to pursue ideas or goals beyond the confines of Youngstown.
They started a football camp, but quickly determined that life skills programs were important. So, while Smith addressed that topic during the football camp, they also added a special workshop, just for girls, called Chalk Talk, which teaches the x’s and o’s of life.
Rosalynn, a native of Texas, who has not only a Bachelors and Masters in electrical engineering, but also earned her PhD in biological engineering, is particularly passionate about enlightening young girls. She was the first member of her family to graduate college and she wants to impress upon these girls that in today’s world, college isn’t an option, it’s a requirement.
The Smiths bring in women executives and professionals, many with Youngstown roots, to share their experiences of success and how they accomplished them. The variety of careers is also important to show the girls what’s out there. The camp has featured a diverse range of occupations including, editors CEOs, nutritionists, doctors and lawyers.
Many of the life skills classes are interactive, including having each girl create a dream board utilizing the practical information they have learned as to how to make their dreams come true.
“We talk a lot about dreams and fulfilling our dreams,” Rosalynn said. “At the end, when they present their dream board, I see them having an idea of how they can get their dreams accomplished. We are trying to make sure that’s common knowledge, including how many years it takes to get where you want to be.”
And it’s not all about teaching the children how to obtain things. One of the foundation’s goals is to teach about doing charitable work of their own. In addition to the life skills classes, the children are taught about giving back. One of the activities during the 2014 camp is creating boxes of necessities that will be donated to a local mission. While the foundation is providing the products, the children will pack the contents.
“I want them to understand the importance of volunteering and that being a part of society and helping others less fortunate is an important thing to do,” Rosalynn said. “I want them to understand it’s important to have a heart and help other people.”
In addition to hosting the camp, the True Foundation helps individuals and families in need. They are contacted by people for assistance with many different things. When the foundation can help, it does. If they can’t, they make sure to make a connection to the right person or group who can.
For the Smiths, their foundation work is, in many ways, the most gratifying thing in their lives outside of their family, which includes two children, Alex and Bria. Although their children are still very young, they hope to convey the same lessons that they are teaching other children to Alex and Bria who are being raised in much more privileged surroundings.
“It’s not all about taking,” Rosalynn said. “It’s about giving back. I’m trying to instill that in my kids too.”
“[The foundation] gives satisfaction because it’s going to last,” Smith said. “Football only lasts so long and nobody really remembers what you did 50 years from now. But people remember what you did for them and how you helped their family. It means so much more to impact a person.”
For more information on the Brad Smith True Foundation, visit www.truefoundation16.org.