WHEELING - Paying it forward.
For Devon McDonald, it's one of the most important things any of us can do.
As president of SportsWorld, Inc., a non-profit headquartered in Indianapolis, McDonald is devoted to helping professional athletes change the lives of young people.
The organization's mission says it all.
It reads, in part - ''Our focus is to help students see the value of making positive choices in their life. We are also here to come alongside teachers and administrators, reinforcing what they are already teaching.''
For the past 15 years or so, SportsWorld has been bring it's message to students of the OVAC. In fact, the Ohio Valley is one area of the country in which SportsWorld is most active.
So, where better to stage its annual ''Choose to Win'' banquet.
After years of playing host to the event in its home base of Indianapolis, SportsWorld is bring it to Wheeling's Oglebay Resort and Conference Center.
''We looked at where we have the most influence and where do we do a lot of speaking,'' McDonald said. ''It just makes sense.''
This year's event is set for Friday, Aug. 15. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the banquet goes from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Mike Gottfried, ESPN college football color commentator, founder of Teen Focus, and former head coach at Pitt, will be the keynote speaker.
The night will also include guest speakers, a silent auction, entertainment, dinner, and video presentations geared at championing SportsWorld's message of hope.
''The goal that night is to bring more awareness to what SportsWorld is about and to help bring in the necessary funds to keep what we have going in the area and nationwide.''
SportsWorld has certainly had a presence in the OVAC. It's footprint has stretched over almost all of the conference's 50 schools and McDonald praised OVAC Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak and his staff for allowing SportsWorld to be a part of the conference.
''It's been a partnership made in heaven,'' McDonald said.
McDonald played football collegiately at Notre Dame for Lou Holtz and professionally for the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals. That, he said, was rewarding. But what's given him more joy is helping youngsters improve their lives through SportsWorld.
''It's definitely a privilege to do what we do,'' he said.
McDonald is filled with many anecdotes detailing moments of success for SportsWorld's programs.
''One of our guys had a young man come up and he was weeping and crying and he had a bag of marijuana and the guy said, 'Take this, I don't want it anymore.' We have stories like that and many, many more.
''I love those stories. They are candid. If you open up your life to them, they'll open up their life to you.''
McDonald stressed young people, no matter where they live, are always confronting issues. It's simply a part of growing up. And, through SportsWorld and its speakers, McDonald believes those youngsters can be set on a correct path to deal with them.
''It's important to have an impact, and I believe this year we'll see a greater impact,'' McDonald said.
Complete information about the banquet, tickets, table sponsorships, corporate sponsorships, etc. can be obtained by visiting the banner at the top of the organizations website at www.sportsworld.org.
''It's going to be a short night, but we believe it will be an impactful night for the people there,'' McDonald said.