An injury during week four of Fred Taylor’s twelfth season changed his game.
The severe ankle sprain resulted in a surgery that left the 34-year-old New England Patriots running back on crutches for 10 weeks.
“I now really know the value of walking,” Taylor said. “When you are in pain and can’t get from one room to the next, it’s frustrating.”
The downtime, said Taylor, a Belle Glade native, gave him time to think about all the children who suffer from disabilities, “especially those who endure it on a daily basis. My experience just opened my eyes.”
Because of that experience, Taylor has created the Fred Taylor Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide athletic and educational programs for disabled and at-risk children.
“The way my football career has gone, the number of injuries I’ve had, serves as confirmation to what God has in store for me,” he said.
The foundation focuses on children age 5 to 17, its director, Lisa Ivory, said. Their disabilities could be temporary or from birth.
“Through programs and services, our goal is to bring awareness to the children in that population,” she said.
Next year, Taylor said, the foundation plans to bring Chance to Play, a camp for the physically disabled, to parks and recreation centers throughout South Florida.
“We are being cautious,” Taylor said about seeking out the right partnerships for the camp, adding that “we only want those who have a passion for working with disabled kids.”
Ivory said the foundation is also looking to partner with the Special Olympics.
“They have the expertise as well as the necessary programs, services and facilities in place,” she said.
The foundation is also seeking partnerships with children’s hospitals, rehabilitation centers, social service agencies and other organizations with a history of working with disabled children, Ivory said.
“I’m currently working on forming relationships with South Florida children’s hospitals,” said Taylor.
The foundation will not only put money into athletics, Taylor explained, but will also support academic excellence.
The plan, Taylor said, is to put a grant program in place. Through requests for grant monies, he said, “we will prioritize where the funds are released; determine the most needed places or organizations.”
Through a partnership with Cool Kids Learn (CKL), the foundation will also offer afterschool programs for academic assistance, plus donate computers and books.
CKL provides academic enrichment programs after school and during the summer at schools and community locations throughout the southeastern United States.
By engaging students in hands-on elective coursework designed to reinforce academic foundations, build critical thinking skills and expose them to cultural, career and arts experiences, CKL helps children build the love of learning they need to succeed, according to its website.
To a child, Taylor said, “time is more valuable than money.”
He continued: “Kids want to see you, touch you; they want to know that you are real; know that they can do anything. These kids typically would not have the opportunity to participate in any sports or gymnastic activity, and I want to help the ones who need it most.”
For more information about the Fred Taylor Foundation or the Chance to Play program, please visit www.FredTaylorFoundation.com.