Once faced with what could have been crippling challenges, a former NFL veteran is now giving back in a big way—including sponsoring a benefit event in June designed to help young people achieve their goals.

Now known as a gifted athlete, with nine years as a professional football player, Robert Tate still vividly remembers feeling like a nobody and wondering if he would ever amount to anything.

He was often embarrassed in his school classes. It seemed no matter what he did, he was unable to read and to keep up. He worked hard to compensate, training himself to visualize and to learn by listening. Still, his report cards always showed that he was working far below his grade level.

“No matter how hard I tried, I continued to struggle with my school work,” he said.

He did have certain things going for him. He had the support of one particular elementary school teacher, the constant encouragement from his parents and his skills for basketball and football.

Yet, it wasn’t until Robert Tate was diagnosed with dyslexia that his challenges not only made sense, but he was able to get the help that he needed.

He attended classes at Sylvan Learning Center to help with academics, while his focus on sports gave him drive and confidence to succeed. Sports also helped keep him away from the drugs and alcohol that were prevalent in his neighborhood.

By the time he was a sophomore in high school, things seemed to be going quite well, until, the first morning of football season, tragedy struck.His father, at age 36, suddenly died of a massive heart attack.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was really struggling to keep it together,” he said.

Yet, by then, Tate knew he could do hard things. As described in his book, The Pain and Glory of Surviving in the National Football League,he pushed forward, eventually going to four years of college at the University of Cincinnati and being drafted into the NFL, where he played for nine years—with the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals.

Tate, who now lives in Arizona, is using his name, celebrity status and reputation to give back and to help children who are facing some of the same kind of challenges he did. In addition to being an author, he is a motivational speaker—speaking especially to school groups. He also runs football camps for young people. And, he has started the Robert Tate Dyslexia Foundation, to help young people with dyslexia or other challenges to have the kind of support and help he did. (To learn more, visit www.roberttatenow.com.)

“Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, I’m trying to use my strengths to help,” Tate said.

The mission his Foundation is to mentor children in the Valley and give them hope and encouragement. In particular, the Foundation strives to give children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities the chance to learn and reach their full potential, stay focused and stay in school. This is accomplished through scholarships to New Way Academy and Sylvan Learning and through group mentoring sessions, camps and outings. The Foundations provides these activities free, funding them with donations from individuals, local businesses and community organizations.

Seeing an ever-growing need for donations and wanting to raise the awareness about dyslexia, the Foundation has organized its second annual Robert Tate Dyslexia Foundation Children’s Scholarship Fund Gala.

The evening will include dinner, dancing and a silent auction, and will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 29, at the Coast Phoenix Sky Harbor Hotel, 4300 E.Washington Street, in Phoenix.

Auction items will include an autographed Larry Fitzgerald football helmet and a jersey, an autographed Kurt Warner football helmet and a flat screen TV and many other items for bid during the event. One current or alumni NFL player will dine at each table. A live band will provide the music.

Tickets for the event are available online at www.roberttatefoundation.com or call (612) 306-8668 for more information. The tickets are $1000 for a table of eight, or individual tickets are available for $125 per person. (However, individual seating is limited.)

The Robert Tate Foundation is a certified, not-for-profit 501c3 organization established for mentoring youth ages 12 to 18. Donations to the Foundation may be made at www.roberttatefoundation. To contact Robert Tate, call 612-306-8668 or email roberttatenow@yahoo.com.

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