At our regular meeting on October 31st, Carmine Azzato gave a very inspiring talk about Sports World, an organization that addresses problems facing our youth by sending professional athletes to share personal life experiences with students to keep them aware of the consequences of their choices while challenging them with the Message of Hope.
Carmine, the Northeast Regional Manager for Sports World, described how the organization helps students see the value of making positive choices in their life. They work alongside teachers and administrators, reinforcing what they are already teaching. Their focus is not to create shame for making bad decisions, but to show students that they can choose a better way. Their tagline says... “You’re not born a Winner; You’re not born a Loser; You’re born a CHOOSER.”
Carmine’s bio includes early aspirations to be a professional football player that was cut short by injuries, a successful 20-year career as a professional wrestler, also abruptly ended by an injury, his struggle with depression and suicide attempts, and his eventual recovery.
Sports World was founded 40 years ago, is a non-profit organization that provides all of its services to schools around the country at no cost to them. They currently deal with students from grades three to twelve.
Carmine described the process that he and the other current and former professional athletes use to elicit responses to personal questions about the children’s home and social lives. He also detailed the startling accounts they relate about abuse, neglect, drug use, despair, and a host of other stressful issues the children deal with on a daily basis. The athletes then relate their own personal stories, the challenges they faced throughout life, their own struggles to find the right life path, how the students can understand and face the consequences of the choices they make in their lives, and how they too can make the right choices.
Sports World teams with local churches and volunteer organizations to provide outreach and counsel to schools in each community they visit. They also have a 24/7 crisis hotline that students in distress can call for professional counseling.
They are supported largely by grants and contributions from large corporations and local business and civic organizations. They typically run a three-day outreach in a community, with up to 12 assemblies in local schools.
More information about Sports World, and a riveting video, can be seen on their website:
Carmine is shown above with Babylon Rotary Co-Presidents Charlie Spencer and Scott Lockwood (the guy in the Halloween Turkey suit).