Warrick Dunn still changing lives; makes 173rd new home presentation through Habitat for Humanity

Shalise Manza Young
Yahoo Sports Contributor

Warrick Dunn totaled over 15,000 yards from scrimmage over his 12-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, helping both teams to the playoffs and making three Pro Bowl teams.

But Dunn’s biggest contribution has always been off the field, where he continues to change lives.

Dream come true

Via the Tampa Bay Times, on Tuesday Dunn’s eponymous foundation and Habitat for Humanity presented LaToya Reedy, a single mother with a teenaged son, with a fully-furnished two-bedroom home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

It’s the 173rd home presentation Dunn has made over the last 20 years, providing single parents around the country with the security of home ownership.

Warrick Dunn has been changing lives for over 20 years. (AP)

Dunn does it in memory of his mother, Betty Smothers, who worked two jobs as a single mother to provide for her six children; Smothers worked as a police officer and security guard, and was escorting a business woman making a nighttime bank deposit when she was ambushed by armed robbers and killed.

It happened just days before Dunn’s 18th birthday.

As the oldest child, Dunn took on the responsibility of being a father figure to his younger siblings.

“I just had to put my head down and get it done. I was just so focused on making sure that I could take care of my brothers and sisters, so that was my driving force,” Dunn said Tuesday.

“I’ve used this program as therapy. Every time I hand over those keys there’s a little piece of my mom and the things she wanted.”

Smothers wasn’t able to reach that dream of providing a home for her children, but through his charity, he’s helped provide that for many others, including the mother of Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson.

And now, Reedy.

‘I can be at peace’

Reedy works as a certified nursing assistant, but constant rent increases finally became too much. She and her son, 18-year-old AnTrez, were forced to move into an overcrowded living space with her mother two years ago. Reedy, her son and mother shared one bedroom, with Reedy and her mother taking turns sleeping on the bed.

She applied for a home with Habitat and Dunn’s program, and the requirements include putting in sweat equity hours: Reedy put in 350 volunteer hours — over the 300-hour minimum requirement — helping build homes for other families.

On Tuesday, she was thrilled to see that her new home, a two-bedroom, two-bath structure, was furnished and came with appliances, electronics and even lawn equipment. She also received $5,000 in Publix grocery store gift cards.

Aaron’s, a rent-to-own furniture company, and healthcare provider Cigna each donated $10,000, for furniture and down payment assistance.

Overwhelmed, Reedy was shaking and fought back tears as she entered the home.

“Oh my God, this is beautiful,” she said. “I love it. This is everything.”

After thanking everyone there for changing her and AnTrez’s life, she reflected on what home ownership meant to her.

“I can be at peace. I can bring sweet memories to my house and I can have my family and my friends over. I have a home now, and that’s something that I’ve always wanted for my son and for myself.”

Giving will continue

In July, Warrick Dunn Charities received its single biggest donation, a multi-million dollar gift from Ryan “Jume” Jumonville, chairman of United Networks of America, a nationwide medical discount card network.

Jumonville and Dunn were high school teammates at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The donation ensures that Dunn will be able to help provide 100 more homes to first-time homeowners.

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