From within the Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame, a great collaboration between the University and one of its distinguished alumni, Clint McDonald, brought children from around the Memphis area together for a morning full of fun and learning. McDonald, a former Tiger football player and nine-year NFL veteran, is the founder of the Light Into Darkness Foundation, which partnered with the First Book Program to put on a speed-reading challenge to encourage and equip the youth in attendance through games and their own set of books.
McDonald, a defensive end who attended the University of Memphis from 2005-2008, founded Light Into Darkness in Seattle, Washington while playing with the Seattle Seahawks. The Light Into Darkness foundation has long encouraged the growth of S.T.E.M education in youth across the country, and recently has started to dive in to the dispersal of books and hosting reading events for local communities. McDonald said that this was the second reading event with his organization, the first being in Oakland, California while he was with the Oakland Raiders. He hopes to do three more around the country in the near future.
The First Book Program offers a great service to the community, as it helps families, teachers and schools have access to great books at a discount rate. The book distribution company services millions of books each year in their quest to eliminate the barriers that may stand between children and high-quality education. Currently, the program has over 425,000 teachers in its program.
Support from the University was in full force as well, as Interim Athletic Director Allie Prescott addressed the crowd followed by other administrative staff members and football Head Coach Mike Norvell. Norvell encouraged the room of youth and educators by saying, “when you’re in the Tiger family, the most important talent you have is knowledge, and you gain knowledge through picking up a book. You read stories, learn about experiences and gain something that no one can take away.”
More information about Light Into Darkness can be found at its webpage www.thelid.org, while information about the First Book Program can be reached at www.firstbook.org.