Middleton’s Dream the Impossible Initiative encourages kids to give back

Middleton’s Dream the Impossible Initiative  encourages kids to give back
February 20
15:10 2020

Doug Middleton is a Winston-Salem native and is currently a free safety for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL. For the past three years, he has been holding his Dream the Impossible Initiative (DII) in the city for local kids. This year, it was held at the Ken Carlson Boys and Girls Club on Saturday, Feb. 15.

The initiative was started following the death of Middleton’s best friend, AJ Morrison, who tragically took his own life. DII is a means to carry on the memory of Morrison, while also educating local young people on the importance of mental health, fiscal responsibility and academic achievement.

“We started three years ago, and it was after the passing of my best friend AJ Morrison, who suffered his death through suicide,” said Middleton. “He was going through severe depression, so we started the organization Dream the Impossible to bring awareness to mental health, especially in the African American community.”

A few months after the passing of Morrison, Middleton suffered a season ending injury, which gave him the time to figure out a way to bring some value to his community and DII was the result. His first event was small, but over the last two years, he has continued to grow the event by leaps and bounds. Saturday’s event had a full slate of activities that involved more than just sports.

“Today we started off this morning with the financial education class by my financial advisor, Chris Leak from Morgan Stanley,” said Middleton. “He (Leak) just went over some basic financial education with the kids and the parents, just to help them make better decisions and some things they probably didn’t think about.”

Following the financial education class, the young men and women assisted the Forsyth Backpack Program (FBP) with packing 1,600 meals for students to take home on weekends and school breaks. Middleton wanted the youth to understand you don’t have to have money to provide a service for someone in need.

“Last year Doug called, and he is a young man trying to give back to his community, so we made it work,” said Carol Templeton, president of the FBP. “So that’s how we got connected and did it again this year.  It’s worked well and the kids have fun in the assembly line.

“It’s extremely important for the kids to realize that they can be of service to others, no matter what their circumstances are. When a community works together, they can help each other, and when the community works together, everyone benefits.”

The idea for the collaboration with FBP came from Wells Fargo, Middleton said. He has always had a heart for giving back, so he wanted to show the kids that you are never too young to start.

“My mom had always taught us community service and to serve before we did anything else,” Middleton continued. “I felt like I was already giving back, but I wanted these kids to see giving back was something they needed to focus on also. They are getting shoes, but at the same time, they have to create a difference in someone else’s life.”

The day concluded with a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, lunch for the kids, and a guest speaker. Every kid was also given a pair of sneakers at the end of the day.

Middleton hopes that his story was an inspiration to the kids. He said he was never the best player on his high school or college team, but still was able to make it to the NFL through hard work and perseverance.

“All I was, was a kid that had a dream, worked hard and really had a lot of people around to help me accomplish my goal, like my family and this community, and that’s the number one reason I am giving back,” he continued. “People like Mr. Piggott (Ben) are reasons why I am here, Pop Warner coaches, teachers, all the people in church. All of those people had an influence on my life and my decision-making process, which is why I was able to accomplish my dreams.

“I am just trying to show these kids what the formula is to make it and accomplish their dreams. That’s the whole reason for the day, just to show them that it’s possible. That’s our whole motto for our foundation and hopefully, the kids can get that from today.”

Being at the boys and girls club brought back a lot of memories, Middleton said. He said it was a pleasure to run into young people that remind him of himself when he was their age.  

Middleton has his master’s degree in public administration to enhance his non-profit moving forward. He is dedicated to taking his foundation as far as possible to reach as many kids as he can. 

Prior to the end of the event, Cathie Morrison, AJ Morrison’s mother, came to show her appreciation for Middleton. He still has a close relationship with the Morrison family. Mrs. Morrison loves that her son’s memory lives on through the foundation and mental health is being addressed in a community where most often it’s swept under the rug.

“I just look at it from the aspect that a lot of people need to take mental health seriously,” said Mrs. Morrison. “Pay attention and notice the signs, get involved and ask questions, never just ignore them. In my son’s situation, we saw the aspect of him getting sick. All medicines don’t help and work for everyone and that’s one of the issues we dealt with, with our son. I want more parents to get involved and not look at the fact their child becomes a certain age, they are grown.

“Through this foundation, so many people have reached out to us with children that are going through the same thing. That means a lot that with Doug being his (AJ) best friend since they were six, he could be doing so many other things, but he chooses to make his foundation about AJ and that means a lot to me. He also gives a lot back to the community and being able to reach out to people and give them a positive outlook. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough of us to save our son, but through this foundation, we are going to save somebody.”

Mrs. Morrison says the foundation helps her get over the pain of losing her son. She says it’s hard to talk about it, but with each event it helps her get closer to talking about it in the future.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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