A thing we have learned on this journey, is that a disease affects the whole family and to not listen and validate our children’s voices would be ill-advised.
Children’s words are often uncomplicated and simplistic.
Our eldest daughter came down the stairs a year ago, handed me a letter and declared “I need you to mail this.”
I hesitated…… my brain unable to process what was happening…… came to… and said yes.
I opened it.
Read and re-read it.
Wept for her reality.
Drove to the post office
and as I slipped it in the mail slot, I felt overwhelmed by her ability not only to articulate but to EXPECT change.
Libby did receive a response back from The President.
I think she felt she was heard.
Her truth was hard to handle but the real truth of being fired because you have a disease is a blinding reality for too many people in our community.
We will affect change.
A huge pause as I read a note from a players parent this morning.
Then I read and re-read again. “You changed my son’s life.”
Some in athletics (and the greater world of life) think that because Don has Parkinson’s (or someone has a disability) it diminishes his (or their) abilities, passion and effectiveness on and off the field (job). I will always take umbrage to that. In every locker-room that I have ever stood in, there are signs of perseverance and motivation. Don (and all who have disabilities) is a living day example of those true testaments.
MagnaReady was selected as a American Express Open Forum – Game Changer. We help people improve their daily living experience BUT I am lucky and proud to share with my children that their father, Don Horton, changed lives.
What She Does: Horton has designed and brought to market a line of men’s dress shirts that have magnets infused into the buttons. This makes it easier for those with diseases, disabilities or injuries to dress themselves in professional wear. “We are a company with innovative solutions for limited mobility apparel,” Horton says.
How She Started: Horton’s journey to create her first shirt was a very personal one. Her husband, Don, a former football coach for North Carolina State University, has Parkinson’s Disease. After one game, he was in the locker room and had difficulty buttoning his shirt—one of his players, Russell Willson, now a quarterback with the Seattle Seahawks, had to button it for him.
“He was embarrassed,” Horton says. “There aren’t many things with Parkinson’s that I can help him with, but this is one challenge I decided to take on.”
Why She’s a Game Changer: After hearing about that locker room incident, Horton ordered other shirts to see if she could find something that worked for her husband.
“They just didn’t meet my standards,” Horton says. And after carefully looking over the available options, mostly with hook and loop closures, Horton called on her background in design to create something she would like better.
“I had always been interested in design and I noticed that the tech world was turning to magnets,” Horton says. Inspired by tablet covers and purses with magnetic closures, she created a dress shirt with magnets as well. She had to find the perfect magnetic strength that made it easy enough to open and close but strong enough to keep the shirt fastened.
What’s Next: Thanks to the success of MagnaReady shirts, the company is about to add more products this summer.
“The outcry for women’s apparel is huge and we are about to launch that,” Horton says. “We have secured the patent rights for hospital patient gowns and we are going to debut children’s coats.”
The idea for the children’s coats was also born of Horton’s family experiences. After struggles bundling up toddlers for blustery Northeastern winter days, she wanted to simply design something to make life easier.
Advice for Other Entrepreneurs: “Mentoring has been huge to me,” Horton says. After stepping away from the design world to raise her children and then diving back in with the launch of MagnaReady, Horton says she relied on advice from other professionals across other industries. “It’s good to be able to run things by other people,” Horton says.
And she has one other piece of advice: “Don’t ever give up.”
Meet more ambitious entrepreneurs in our Game Changers series.
We currently reside in the south and in a triangular area of a state that has deep dividing “what team do you pull for?” lines. We’ve been associated with teams for all of our lives. Beginning from the ones we are born in to. My first team was a family of 12. We could actually field our own football team, with a substitution for injury to boot! An Irish Catholic group whose heart and soul could stand close to any Notre Dame team. My father had a friend actually suit our family up. This gear was pre Adidas or Nike contracts. Our small frames and entire backs were incased with the letters SWEENEY. Now and then when we went on family excursions to Kings Island or Disney, we would proudly don our jerseys, making it easy for my parents to assess if a child had strayed from the flock. My mother, who has in uncanny sense of preserving our childhood memories, recently “presented” me with my jersey. I was Lucky number 12. Memories flood back now when I see my youngest wear it to sleep at night. I am thankful to recollect my first official group.
Don has been a life long team member. The first jersey number he can recall – 21. His favorite number – 70. He literally has played a role at every capacity a team member can be. Father, player, coach, recruiter, husband, speaker, rookie team trainer, brother, statistician, water boy. You name it. He has been it as some point in his lifetime, from little league, Indian Hill, Wittenberg, Ohio University, UVA, Capital, Ohio State, Southern Illinois, New Mexico State, Boston College to NC State. His hope is that whatever lives he touched during this process, they were positively influenced and changed. At our wedding rehearsal dinner one of his close friends and fellow team mate, Scott presented him with his basketball jersey. It was from their alma matter Indian Hill, where they proudly took the Eastern Hills League by storm in basketball. They fondly reminisced about their playing time and the roles they played on and off the field in each others lives. Being a part of a team is special and those relationships formed generally last forever. We hope our kids remember more of the process of being on a team than their stats. As parents, we would rather our kids receive a good teammate or sportsmanship award than a MVP any day.
We all like to be on the winning team, or working feverishly to achieve that status. In this profession many ethical and great leaders have been “cut loose” because their wins didn’t necessarily translate to victories that were seen on a score board. When Don had made his mind up to go ahead with the deep brain stimulation surgery, we both felt the immediate need to evaluate our team. Don had been seeing a neurologist at Duke that was recommended when we relocated to North Carolina. He was fine. I’m sure inundated with patient overload had caused our appointments to be short and for several phone calls and emails to be unreturned for days. After asking a few questions about his surgical experience and knowledge with DBS, we decided, together, that our team needed new players. Research ensued, phone calls placed and meetings / appointment set. We decided that we needn’t search far. We had found the right facility. We just needed 5 star rated players. We came together for the first appointment, armed with a defense of questions that would take hours. Don stated our intentions of assessing his candidacy for DBS and we were looking for the right person to lead this effort. One of the keys would be, if you were going to cut into his brain and body, we would need a little better response than what we had been receiving from the previous doctor. It felt right from the moment we shook hands. Our defenses put at ease. We confirmed what the best game plan and forms of communication would be and to date his attention has been amazing. So great, that a veteran recovery nurse remarked out of surgery that she rarely sees surgeons examine their patients in recovery, but there was Dr. Turner – just checking in. He has been the beacon of light we needed to make such a large decision and I’m glad were weren’t afraid to make an adjustment.
Having worked in athletics now for 30 years, we completely understand the word loyalty and dedication to a team and now a cause. So, when someone has any question of what team we root for……. we will proudly claim Duke. So, go Coach K! Carry on Coach Cutcliffe and most importantly, thank you Dr. Turner and Duke Hospital for the first class care that we have received. We couldn’t ask for a better team in a battle that isn’t just a season at a time but everyday of our lives.
Don has known he wanted to be in athletics his entire life. At the earliest age of remembrance, he was geared up with some sort of ball, ready for action at anytime, blessed to live in an area and an era when pick-up games happened everyday, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Those days in the open fields are some of his best memories. His mother often tells the story that he could have followed in his father’s footsteps and became a surgeon. She recalls a phone call that she received from a guidance counselor at his school. “Don seems fascinated with this whole football thing. His test scores are very high and it is our recommendation that we steer him in another direction.” She didn’t miss a beat. Where some parents would concur and assist help in the matter, she declared that it was Don’s decision. She has always empowered her children (and now grandchildren) with that same voice of choice – often asking them, “What would you like to do?” And so, his love of the game persisted to grow and to flourish. By the time I met Don, he was so fully entrenched that I had only one choice. If I wanted our relationship to survive I too had to jump in. It was an easy transition for me; a sister to 5 brothers (sandwiched right in between) who had me outside for countless hours as well, playing basketball, kickball or hotbox. Somehow, I was always in the middle – never picked first among the boys, but I could hang and my competitive genes grew as well. I’m actually not sure my parents can recall a basketball game that I didn’t foul out of.
Don and I met after a football game, one of his friends was dating one of mine. He was coaching at the time at a division three school in Ohio; his alma matter- Wittenberg. We commuted to see each other, and I, like his parents, never missed a game. Home or away- it was just what we did. Many games were far and in small but beautiful rural towns. Upon arriving, I would watch with pure amazement. His ability to make split second decisions, encourage his players when they were down and to give everything he had everyday. He rarely ever raised his voice. He always said that if they didn’t know it by game time – screaming wouldn’t jog their memories. I have always admired his strengths. His quiet nature is humbling – he is never boastful. He could always take any discussion down to the simplest of terms and navigate it gracefully. His strengths just illuminate from within. I was marrying the best man on this planet, but I was also sharing him with many others; a group of men called the offensive line.
He wanted to win – who doesn’t want to be successful – but he always chose to leave his imprint as his mentors, Dave Maurer, Ron Murphy and Tom O’Brien did with him. The position he coached was always the most fascinating to me …. The Offensive Line. This great massive group of men – 5 who stand to defend and protect on every play. They rarely handle the ball, unless it’s fumbled. They receive no accolades – silent warriors protecting a quarterback. They act as a unit to be perfect – every snap so that the team has a chance for success. They are big but have feet like ballet dancers. They are often the most feared and respected guys on the team. And, within each of them, I see an amazing large heart that matches their physical appearance.
Brick and Mortar Of Our Team
Don has been surrounded by some of the best offensive lineman out there at every level. I’ll brag a bit. He was voted the second best offensive line coach in division one athletics ALL while he was coaching with Parkinson’s. Around him a wall has been built – a wall of men that stand together, impermeable. The courage these men demonstrate now to be associated with Don – in sickness or in health – is almost as strong as the vow I took some 19 years ago. These men call him just to pick his brain, to say hi, to check on our children and share good and sad stories about their families that we’ve come to know. These men are why I truly love football, and when these players became aware that Don is living with Parkinson’s, I have been brought to tears by how strong and supportive they have been. Even when Don accepted a change in position, taking him off of the field, he still felt privileged to be surrounded by such fine athletes. These athletes are, and always have been, the brick and mortar of our lives.
NC State tight ends coach Don Horton will no longer coach, but will remain on the Wolfpack staff as the assistant director of football operations, the school announced on Thursday.
“It is with great excitement that I approach the next step in my professional career in athletic administration,” Horton said in a prepared statement. “Coach [Tom] O’Brien and NC State athletics have offered my family and me a great opportunity to become involved in the administration and I am extremely grateful. I would like to thank all those who have made this next step possible.”
“I am thrilled to have Coach Horton continue in his career here at NC State,” O’Brien stated. “As a member of our staff for the past 15 years, he has been more than an excellent football coach. He has also has done a tremendous job developing young men and setting high standards when it comes to hard work and how to do things the right way. In his new role, he will continue to benefit everyone associated with this football program, and we are as excited about this opportunity as he is.”
Horton began coaching at Ohio State in 1982 as a graduate assistant. He made coaching stops at nine other schools and made the trip to NC State with O’Brien in 2007. He has mentored more than 15 NFL players and has coached in 12 college bowl games.