Pinball building dreams

JACK BOLAND -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

On the gridiron, as both a football player and coach, Michael "Pinball" Clemons has had a forward-thinking, all-encompassing vision -- and now he wants to expand it globally through his personal foundation.

The Argo stalwart kicked back in a T-shirt, jeans and white slip-on loafers at his Oakville home yesterday to talk about the Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation and his upcoming Pinball Wizard gala fundraiser to help disadvantaged youth here and abroad.

"We do have a scope that is larger than local. We do have a global scope, and we do believe in building from the inside out," Clemons said.

He said the four pillars of the foundation -- health, human resources, education and character-building programs -- are locally focused and expand from there.

INSPIRATION

"It would really do me no good to have a foundation to try to help community and people outside of our house if my own house is in shambles," Clemons said.

But first the dynamo must draw on past experiences and heroes -- like his mother -- who gave him inspiration to overcome and run with the ball at every opportunity.

"She loved me in a way that really inspires me still today," Clemons said. "She was the one that let me know I was bigger than my circumstances, even at 5-foot-5," Clemons said.

Among the goals Clemons wants to achieve in this inaugural year of his foundation are building a Habitat for Humanity home in his community, offering a scholarship for two students who have completed a year of post-secondary education and creating the "Smile, Star and Shine" program for children in kindergarten to Grade 8 and make them understand the importance of character building at schools in Ontario.

"When you have a great education it gives you the ability to go from surviving to thriving," Clemons said. "It really empowers you to go to that next level."

But uppermost on his mind and that of Diane -- his vivacious wife of 23 years and mother of three children Rylie, 4, Raven, 10, and Rachel, 14 -- is to build a second operating room with the Christian Blind Mission International at a hospital they visited in Kumi, Uganda, in April last year that helps disabled children.

"If you are disabled a lot of times you are ostracized in these communities," Clemons said. "These are the poorest children of the poor."

So helping to build a new operating room may give them a better future where they will not be left to die a lonely death because of their disabilities.


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