|Warrick Dunn launches a mobile grief-counseling program in Baton Rouge|
Food isn't the only thing that can roll on a truck these days in Baton Rouge. Warrick Dunn, the former Catholic High football star and NFL running back, has launched Betty's Hope, a mobile bereavement program aimed at children ages 5 through 18 who have suffered loss.
Dunn says the RV that will travel to area schools and events will be “a little tricked out.” Overseen by Program Director Jennifer Maxwell, the initiative will also supply peer-to-peer group counseling sessions, assisted by community volunteers.
“One on one, a child might not talk,” Dunn explains. “But in a group of their peers, children might be more receptive to help and be able to build a bond. Then, we will not only be enhancing one kid's life, but the whole community.”
Dunn lost his mother, police officer Betty Smothers, in a violent crime, forcing him to take care of his five siblings. He went on to have a successful professional football career, but he continued to give back to his community. What many probably don't know is how he handled his grief.
Though Dunn lost his mother when he was just 18, he didn't start going to counseling until many years later.
“It changed my life for the better,” he says. “I was living life, but not loving life. If this program had been around when I was 18, it could have really altered my life.”
Now 37, Dunn wants to bring to others in situations similar to his a resource that “taught me how to cope.” Betty's Hope caters not only to those who have suffered a loss through death, but also those working through divorces, separations and other relationship struggles.
“Grief is different for everyone,” Dunn says. “It comes in all shapes, forms, sizes and colors.” He says participants seem to come in around 60 to 90 days after their loss, which is generally when the grieving process actually starts, according to experts.
Now a limited-ownership partner of the Atlanta Falcons, Dunn works as a color analyst for ESPN while he finishes earning his MBA from Emory University. Through all he has gone through, both highs and lows, he has never has forgotten his roots, or the personal tragedy that changed his life forever.
“This isn't about me,” he says. “This is about the community and how I can best serve them.” warrickdunnfoundation.org
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