When former Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants player Michael Boley learned that his older son had autism, he didn’t know how to handle the diagnosis so he initially relied on Google for information. Once he moved to Atlanta he was able to get connected to the right resources and organizations which helped him gain insight and clarity but more importantly, the support he needed to raise two children with autism. His personal journey is why he teamed up with NFL moms and Atlanta’s own Roddy White for the Super Bowl-A-Thon to benefit epilepsy and Talk About Curing Autism.
“Two of my boys have autism,” said Boley. “One 18 and one 11. I’ve been doing work with autism since 2005. That was my rookie year. So I always try to do events like this. It’s my fourth year doing something at a Super Bowl location trying to bring awareness to autism. Also, my oldest son has epilepsy as well. It’s kinda tying two things together. It’s a great way to give back.”
“I’ve been in the medical field for 30 years,” said Angela Mitchell, mother of former NFL player Carlton Mitchell. “It’s very important to bring awareness to autism and epilepsy. A lot of people don’t understand what the illness is and some of the symptoms they may have. I work in surgery. I give anesthesia and we have a lot of kids who have autism. It takes a special type of patience and you have to understand where they are coming from.”
Event attendees included corporations, students, and families who enjoyed an assortment of food, giveaways, a silent auction, and of course…bowling. Although the main goal was to bring awareness to two important causes, Boley wants to make sure people also take away the fact that athletes deal with struggles just like everyone else.
“I want people to realize that we are people too,” said Boley. “Just because we used to be professional athletes, no one is above this happening to a family member or close friend. For me, we’re regular people. People tend to put athletes on this pedestal but I’m just another guy. For them to see myself and other people like me being in this vulnerable state, having to deal with the same issues, and for me, the challenges of dealing with autism and epilepsy in one is something that’s big.”
“People need to know that athletes do more than play football, said Cleotha Aldridge, mother of retired NFL player Allen Aldridge, Jr. “They are capable of more and they do more. Sometimes the media gives a negative image of them. I’m really big on giving back and the community knowing that they are giving back.”
Organizers of the Bowl-A-Thon are former NFL greats DeShaun Foster, Michael Boley, Roddy White, Keary Colbert and their mothers Cheryl Foster, Marilyn Pointe, Jonethia White and Berma Colbert. Pro Player Insiders is also an event sponsor.
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