If you live in Philadelphia you probably know this story. An
11 year old boy named Joey Jones is “skating” in his socks
across the floor of church shelter he and his mom were
staying at in North Philly; homeless because Joey’s mom
Karen had recently lost her job at a print shop and been
evicted from her apartment.
Joey seemed to love skating in his socks so one day Karen
took him to a real ice skating rink. Joey laced on old
skates and loved it.
Karen quickly re-employed herself at an auto parts plant at
$9.9 an hour. Then, by working overtime five days a week for
months and months, she got her and her son out of the
shelter and into affordable housing.
Joey loves skating so much that Karen keeps taking him. Then
11 months after his mom had first introduced him to a sport
he’d only seen on television, a man named Jimi spotted Joey
skating at a public rink. The young boy’s hunger for the
sport shined brightly and it ignited the spirit of
generosity in Jimi, a local coach of the sport. Jimi began
coaching Joey for free.
Young Joey’s passion for the sport was pure greatness. He
skated with enthusiasm, diligence, fearlessness, and even a
sense of play. Most athletes curse when they fail to do what
they were attempting. Joey tries, falls and giggles.
Soon, through Jimi’s introductions, other people were
ignited in generosity. A city center designer gave Joey
blades and a costume. A choreographer helped him with his
Over the next year Joey won 6 gold medals at area
competitions, and captured the state championship for pre-
juveniles. By becoming a state champion he qualified himself
for the inaugural American State Games in St. Louis.
Joey’s dream, in his own words, is to win two Olympics and a
couple of world championships. His mother finds herself
wondering how she’ll ever pay for such an expensive sport,
usually reserved for children of rich parents.
Just for Joey to go to the national competition in St. Louis
was a $3000 expense. Karen raffled off her TV, cd player,
and a camera to neighbors and raised $300. She raised a
little bit more with a bake sale. She was still a long way
away from the $3000, and not even making a dent in the
$25,000 amount that it would take for her son to compete at
a national level for a year.
Then a reporter for the Philly Daily News, named Mark Kramm,
got wind of Joey’s story and wrote a moving article about
it. Two friends, Anthony Casey and Clement Butterfield, read
the story and were touched by it.
Casey, only 31 years old, remembered how he wanted to swim
when he was Joey’s age but was discouraged. He could
identify with having a dream once. Butterfield, a man of 40
years old, was sensitive to the difference some help would
make during challenging times. He, and many of his friends,
had been there and not gotten any.
Anthony and Clement decided they should do something, and
began taking up donations from their friends and neighbors
– ultimately 700 of the 880 people they asked donated a
total of $1,000.
Anthony and Clement weren’t the only people to donate money
to Joey’s dream. Within two months of the news paper
article, a total of $10,000 had been donated. Karen and Joey
were overwhelmed by the generous response. But they were
especially amazed by the donation from Anthony and Clement
and their 700 friends and neighbors.
$1000 from 700 people means on average each person gave only
$1.42. That might not seem like a lot until you know that
Anthony, Clement and their neighbors all make only .19 cents
an hour, because they’re in prison.
We were all born great, which means we can always remember
our greatness. No matter where we are, where we’ve been or
what we do for a living, an opportunity to be great is
always present. A chance to be daring. A chance to be
selfless. A perfect time to be heroic.
Greatness is displayed through the passionate and daring
efforts of an athlete. But greatness is also the strength
and courage displayed by a loving parent, and the generosity
offered up by a community of people.
Until next time, be great.
by Patrick Combs