Panther Thomas Davis speaks about journey

Panther Thomas Davis speaks about journey
July 20
04:00 2017

Since being founded in 1976, Big Brothers Big Sisters have been making a positive impact in the lives of children in Forsyth County.  During that time over 20,000 children have had their lives changed for better. 

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Forsyth County held an “Evening of Magic” at Bridger Field House at BB&T Field.

The keynote speaker for the event was Thomas Davis, star linebacker for the Carolina Panthers.  In addition to Davis, WXII-12 TV’s Wanda Starke was honored for her more than 20 years as a big sister.  Shawan Gabriel, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, served as emcee for the event.

During Davis’ speech, he spoke about the journey that took him from the small town of Shellman, Georgia, all the way to the NFL.  According to Davis, he was one of the last football players to be offered a scholarship to the University of Georgia his senior year.  He says the assistant coach, who was on the way to see another player, stopped by his high school while he was at  basketball practice and offered him a scholarship after watching him practice.

Davis went on to talk about his time at the UGA and how he developed into an All-American when many thought he would not initially, including himself.  He says he used that as fuel to become one of the best players in college football his sophmore and junior years.

Lastly, he wanted to convey the intensity and drive it took to come back from not one or two but three knee reconstructions on the same knee, the only player in NFL history to do so.  He wanted the kids in the room to realize that if you work hard, you can achieve your goals regardless if it’s in the sports arena or the board room.

Starke was honored for her long-tenured relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters.  She has had a little sister for over 20 years who came back to surprise her at work prior to the event.  Their long lasting relationship was chronicled that evening as well. 

Starke says she was honored to be recognized for her work with Big Brothers Big Sisters.  She said she thinks the young women whom she has been paired with over the years has impacted her life just as much as she has impacted theirs. 

“It’s so much fun being a spokesperson because I get to tell people about this wonderful organization that builds and cultivates relationships,” Starke said.  “I’ve interviewed hundreds of people who can tell the story of how Big Brothers Big Sisters has enriched their lives.”

“It’s been fun being a big sister because there is no work involved because I got to have extraordinary fun,” she went on to say.  “Wherever we went, we had fun and it has just been an extraordinary experience.”

Gabriel says he wanted to bring Davis in to speak during the event because of the great work he does with the youth in Charlotte and his hometown in Georgia.  He says Big Brothers Big Sisters plays an integral role in the lives of many young people in Forsyth County. 

“The biggest benefit is providing a sense of future for the kids,” he said.  “Some of our kids just don’t know what tomorrow can look like or know what the possibilities are.  Being able to expose them to things outside of their normal communities and showing them they can be whoever they want to be is great.”

Gabriel says that over the years, Starke has generated over $250,000 for the agency.  He says he could not thank her enough for her tireless efforts with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“Her impact on our agency over the last 25 years is immeasurable,” he continued.  “She has been a huge asset for us, so it was fitting that we celebrated her during our 40-year anniversary.”

For Gabriel he says he wants to continue to have the agency grow in its quest to provide a mentor for every young person in the area that wishes to have one.  He says he knows they “can’t do it alone” and needs help from other nonprofit and for- profit organizations.

For more information about the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, visit the website at or call 336-724-9205 and ask to speak to Lamaya Williams.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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