The kids of today need better leadership. Better role models. Better confidence. Better health. And that starts with us.
I have been pulled toward adolescent health and medicine since I was an adolescent myself! Its why I chose Vanderbilt for my residency, with their level 1 pediatric trauma center, and its why Ive decided to focus my practice in the area of adolescent nutrition. This is where I belong. And in this field, there is no better example for kids, and us leaders within the field, than Willie Austin.
Willie Austin founded The Austin Foundation in 1997 dedicated towards getting kids in Seattle off of the streets and into the gym, surrounded by positive role models and health. In working with Willie and the foundation on a professional level, Willie became a lifelong friend of mine, and had always been a lifelong friend and mentor to my husband Tyler, who sits on the board for the foundation.
Willie was an example to kids for many reasons, but here are just a few.
Willie played football for the Washington Huskies. Student athletes are such amazing examples for youth because they have to work hard on the field, take care of their bodies, manage a crazy time schedule and still do well in school!
Willie continued strength training and power lifting after football was over, and eventually became the World Drug-Free Powerlifing Champion. No cheating, no drugs. Just hard work, dedication, and health.
Willie saw a need that wasn’t being met in the community, and changed it. Forming The Austin Foundation. He saw kids who couldn’t afford the cost of athletic programs or didn’t have safe access to physical fitness activities. He saw kids struggling with diabetes, obesity, asthma and high blood pressure who weren’t comfortable in regular gym class settings. He invited them into his gym, on his time and taught them about their health, their bodies and what they could achieve with hard work, self-esteem and positivity.
Willie was an instructor and coach for the Washington State Special Olympics. Not only did he help those with able bodies to become fit and healthy, but he worked with those who had even more physical challenges to face.
Tragically, Willie Austin passed away suddenly on April 24th 2013. I was and still am devastated, along with my husband and the rest of the community. His wife Vanisha, gave birth to their first child together, a daughter, Willow Austin, the week following his death. With the foundation rocked to its core from the loss of it founder, we are now in a position as the community to raise this foundation up, to save it and to make it even better, as a legacy to Willie, and to all the kids he has helped, and whom the foundation will help in the coming years.
I want to be like Willie. I want to inspire youth to be active, healthy, positive and confident. I want my kids to be like Willie. And for that to happen, we need to keep The Austin Foundation, and those like it, around for a long time.
The foundation needs community and financial support. Crave Health will be donating our allocated charity funds to The Austin Foundation. I hope that all of you out there and your companies will consider allowing a portion of your allocated charitable funds to go to The Austin Foundation this year, the year they need it more than ever.
TODAY is Seattle’s “Give Big” day. May 15th. It allows you to donate to foundations through their website, and stretching your dollar by adding to your donation. I would love to have people GIVE BIG on this day to The Austin Foundation! Also, the annual fundraising breakfast that Willie hosts every year for the foundation is coming up. Willie will be there in spirit. This RUSH (Rise Up & Shine for Health) Breakfast is a great way to meet those involved and learn more about what the foundation is about, and what we are going to do moving forward. Tuesday June 11th from 7:30-9am for breakfast before work.