Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay understands how domestic violence can tear a family apart. Gay’s mother Carolyn Hall had tried to leave an abusive relationship, but his stepfather tracked her down, killed her, and turned the gun on himself — leaving Gay without a mother. Gay is all too aware of the toll that domestic violence carries and the impact it has has on people’s lives.
Raised by his grandmother, Gay had a difficult time coping with his painful loss.
“I was going down the wrong path. I lost direction. It was tough at time. I had some dark times when I was younger,” Gay told LittleThings at the HopeLine phone donation event in New York City.
But his grandmother never gave up on him.
“She stayed supportive, and she made sure that I grew up to be the man my mom wanted me to be,” he added.
His turning point was when he discovered football in high school. He went on to receive a scholarship to the University of Louisville before entering the NFL as a fifth-round draft choice for the Steelers in 2007. (He clinched a Super Bowl ring one year later.)
While he has achieved plenty of success on the field, he claims his greatest work has been speaking to and helping victims and survivors of domestic abuse at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.
“I’d been holding my feelings in for a long time. When I started expressing my story, it helped me cope with my feelings and let my mother’s legacy live on. I never imagined how much I could touch others who are going through the same situation as me,” he said.
“When I got involved with the Women’s Center in Pittsburgh, it was very eye opening. It made me smile to see these mothers and kids had gotten away from their situation. They’re heroes to me. I call them heroes because they were strong enough to escape the violence,” he said.
Hoping to “shed light that the issue of domestic violence is real,” Gay has teamed up with Verizon for their HopeLine and is asking people across the nation to take action against domestic violence by dropping off no-longer-used wireless phones, batteries, chargers and accessories from any service provider, at any Verizon store.
“It sounds simple,” he said, “but it allows victims and survivors to connect with loved ones.”
Through Hopeline, they connect survivors of domestic violence to vital resources, fund organizations nationwide and protect the environment.
Domestic violence is a major problem, but together we can help end it. Please SHARE this incredibly important message with your friends and family on Facebook to raise awareness.