A couple of years ago, in recognition of April as Youth Sports Safety Month, MomsTeam asked 30 experts to write a blog answering two questions: first, how or why did they get into their field, and second, how have they made a difference in the life of a youth athlete in the past year.
Again this year, we are reprising some of those blogs, including this one by a good friend of MomsTEAM, Don Hooton, Sr., president of the Taylor Hooton Foundation. His story, and the work his foundation is doing to educate America's youth and adult influencers about the dangers of Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs) and to equip adult leaders to engage, is an inspiration to youth sports safety activists everywhere.
How did I get into my field?
I came to this field by a route that no parent would ever want to take. My youngest son, Taylor, died about 2 weeks past his 17th birthday. We later learned that he had been using anabolic steroids for about 7 months leading up to his death, and that fully half of the baseball players on Taylor's high school baseball team were using steroids when Taylor began using, so peer pressure was immense.
As parents, we were shocked to learn that these drugs could be so dangerous and were also shocked to find out how many young people were using steroids and other appearance and performance enhancing drugs.
Most parents reading this blog will think that this is a problem that is not something they should be concerned about. "There's no way that my child's friends would be using these drugs," they may be saying.
That's what we thought, and we were wrong. To better appreciate the scope of this problem, here's a brief video with some very frightening statistics about APEDs:
In the wake of our loss, we formed a foundation to raise awareness about the scope of this problem and to educate young people and their adult influencers about the dangers of these drugs. Since then, I have been invited to testify before Congress as an expert witness on three occasions, and met with numerous governors and state legislators. We are proud to have earned the support of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and other leading organizations whose contributions make it possible for us to continue our work.
How have I made a difference in a young athlete's life in the past year?
Because we almost always work with large groups of people, it's difficult to select just one youngster that we've helped. Rather, it's more appropriate to share the feedback that we receive from some of the tens of thousands of kids who attend our seminars. Most tell us how surprised they are to learn about the dangers of steroids and unregulated dietary supplements. Many (and I mean many!) tell us that they know "some friends" that are actively using anabolic steroids. Virtually all of the kids to whom we speak are actively taking dietary supplements, many of which, unbeknownst to them, are spiked with steroids and other banned substances. Few have any concept that the supplements they are taking are as risky as they are.
As for the adults we speak with, virtually all are "shocked" to learn how many kids are intentionally using anabolic steroids and other APEDs. Almost all parents, like we once did, assume that supplements they are buying for their kids are safe because they purchased them at a local health food store. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case: as many as 20% have been shown to contained banned substances. Because these supplements are unregulated, there is no entity verifying that what is listed on the label is what is in that container, and many are unknowingly ingesting APEDs. We show people where to find safe supplements.
We're heard many stories of kids/families that changed their behavior as a direct result of the information that we've provided to them. To learn more about our education programs, please watch this short video.
Don Hooton, Sr. is president of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which he and his family founded in 2004, the year following the death of Don's leader on the subject of the use of Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs) by the youth of America. Its mission is to educate America's youth and adult influencers about the dangers of APEDs and to equip adult leaders to engage. To learn more about the foundation, visit their website or Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter @theTHF.son, Taylor, a high school baseball player who was using anabolic steroids. The foundation is widely recognized as the national