– Crystal Dixon on working with OTL’s production members
On Nov. 6, 2011, 13-year-old Donnovan Hill scored the first touchdown of the Pop Warner Midget Orange Bowl Championship and he was on top of the world. But after a play in the third quarter, his life would never be the same.
A headfirst tackle left Donnovan paralyzed from his neck down and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. That same life ended suddenly in May 2016. “Impact,” the story of Donnovan Hill and reforms in youth football, airs on ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Sunday, Aug. 14, at 9 a.m. ET.
At first, Crystal Dixon, Donnovan’s mother, was hesitant about sharing her family’s story on television.
“In the beginning, I really didn’t feel comfortable but once I met the producer, Simon Baumgart, reporter Tom Farrey and the camera crew, they made it comfortable for me,” Dixon said. “I can say that they are like an extended family now. Everyone was really sincere and caring and especially to Donnovan. They really connected with Donnovan.”
OTL first produced a piece on Donnovan in 2012 and Dixon said the response to the segment was amazing.
“I don’t have the words because people are still contacting me and praying for me,” she said. “It’s overwhelming. It assured me that people do care and that there’s a lot of good people out there.”
Those who had learned about Donnovan’s struggles through OTL donated a variety of items including a handicap-accessible van, a motorized wheelchair and more.
“People were alarmed and they wanted to help,” Farrey said. “They were surprised and disappointed that there was no help for a child that suffered this kind of injury, that so few of his basic needs were met.”
After such a positive response from Part 1, Dixon hopes the full story brings about change.
“I hope that there’s more training, more awareness and that more parents get involved. You can’t get upset that things don’t change if you don’t get involved,” Dixon said.
– OTL reporter Tom Farrey regarding issues addressed in “Impact”
Donnovan’s family recently settled its lawsuit against Pop Warner Football and Dixon plans to set up a foundation in Donnovan’s name to build awareness and help families in similar situations.
Farrey wants Donnovan’s story to continue to bring attention to the current policies that are in place and lead to more reform among youth football organizations.
“I hope people understand how vulnerable kids and families are when serious injuries occur in the course of playing the game,” Farrey said. “It’s surprising that even after Donnovan’s injury, Pop Warner still carries no catastrophic injury insurance coverage. Gaps like these need to be filled, and more coaches need to be trained on how to teach the game, so more parents can have more confidence that their kids will be protected if and when they sign them up for tackle football.
“This is a story that everyone in football should watch if they care about the game,” said Farrey.
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