Game Changer – American Express Open Forum

A huge pause as I read a note from a players parent this morning.

“Coach Horton originally recruited Clif  for his O-Line scholarship at Boston College. Thanks Coach! You changed my son’s life. We are praying for you.”

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.

Overlooking someone because they have a disability is the lowest display of power.

Overlooking someone because they have a disability is the lowest display of power.

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.

Game Changer -by Carla Turchetti

Game Changer
-by Carla Turchetti

Website: www.MagnaReady.com

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.”

RELATED: Game Changer: Creating a More Life-Like Prosthetic Foot

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.

 

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Why I Admire Russell Wilson – The Last of Which Is Football

Russell and the Girls Bowl Christmas

This Sunday there is an amazing NFL game on – The Seattle Seahawks vs The Washington Redskins. Both teams have incredible rookie quarterbacks with current ESPN passing stats impressively ahead of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees.  Their unexpected success so early in their career is an inspiration, and they have already become huge role models among rising youth, but in a battle between Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, Russell will always get my vote for MVP.  All things Russell amaze me.  Not only does he have the ability to persistently conquer challenges and routinely dispel doubts from his critics, but on and off the field, he actively lives a life that makes him a player with a tremendous heart.  These qualities are awe-inspiring, and for him, they seem to come naturally, and we were lucky to get to know him as a young athlete at NCSU.

A lot of things happen in the locker room.  Its a place where men celebrate victories, lick their wounds, visualize their next game and make new promises to themselves.   It’s a place of camaraderie where boys build each other up to become men.  In these walls are the sounds of pep talks, prayers before and after a game, strategies on how to win, the boisterous howls of team spirit and determination when the coach delivers his pre game speech. I just know that whatever happens in this ultimate mans cave stays in the confine of those walls.  Afterwards, once the game is over and the crowd has dispersed, the room gets quieter.  During away games, it’s a scramble to get cleaned up, get back to the team plane, and get back home. And it was in this type of moment, in the hush of a locker room after all players and coaches had gone, that my husband had a real struggle with Parkinson’s.  He was unable to button his shirt.

So, there stood 2 men.  One was  Don – a 50 something year old man responsible for teaching his players to protect the quarterback. The other was Russell Wilson, the 20-something-year-old quarterback that my husband was supposed to protect.  I’m sure Russell was one of the last guys because he had just completed post game interviews.  In the boundaries of this locker room, is where common decency and humanity happened.  Unfortunately limited mobility is one of the side effects of Parkinson’s and Don had expended all his energy on the field. Unaware of Don’s disease, Russell, a player with tremendous heart saw his struggle and helped. He just walked over and helped Don get dressed.  Without speaking a word, a tremendous human being didn’t pass judgement, didn’t ask questions and more importantly didn’t walk out of the room without making sure all was good.

Post Game

Russell, Girls and Friend Just Outside The Locker Room

When Don got home that night, he shared what had happened in the locker room.  He was embarrassed.  Yes, for the fact that he needed help, but more so for the fact that he was losing the ability to do the things that he took for granted.  That was early on in his disease where he, and truth be told we, had difficulty accepting some of the challenges that were ahead of us.  This was our wake-up call.  As he shared his concerns about getting into a situation like this again, inspiration hit, and I thought I could help him.   I’m not sure if Don ever thanked Russell, or if in a man’s world, that’s just something not spoken about.  However, I do remember personally giving Russell a letter of thanks from me.  In a football environment where struggles aren’t an everyday occurrence, Russell showed grace and humility.  The thank you was truly heartfelt because it’s difficult to express gratitude for something so personal.

our guest speaker... the bully?

our guest speaker… the bully?

In the off season of that year, Russell came to the rescue again.  I asked if he could come to my daughter’s school and speak to the students about bullying because I knew he would impart his wisdom, grace and first hand experience.  Without hesitation, he agreed to help out.  Obviously, the kids were enamored by his presence, but surprisingly it was what he shared that left the impression.  Russell admitted that he himself was a bully!  He talked about growing up and how he would target kids on the playground in attempt to acquire friends.  He then conveyed his turning point and how he now chooses to live his life.  The kids couldn’t get enough of him.  He was there to give a 30 minute lecture, but ended up staying and interacting with the kids for over an hour fielding questions on everything from his relationships with girls (he wasn’t married at the time), to God, to the music on his iPod and to the challenges of being a student athlete.   He was personable and kind and gave each of those 440 kids a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Russell didn’t need to spend his down time doing this but somewhere I felt he was happy to have the platform.  Again, just a man living the life he speaks about.

My eldest daughter recently asked me in all seriousness, “How did Russell get a bowl named after him already?”  She just assumed that the Russell Athletic Bowl was named after him and not an apparel company.  When we watch Russell play, we see more than just a great athlete, or a stat with a story.  We see a remarkable human being that we know will have many things named after him one day.