This photo shows Clemson Head Football Coach Dabo Swinney leading a group of young people with intellectual disabilities onto the field before a football game.

How Clemson’s Coach Dabo Swinney Works Miracles Off the Field

Coach Dabo Swinney has worked some miracles for Clemson University on the field, forging one of the country’s two leading dynasties in NCAA football. But Swinney’s no slacker off the field either. His nonprofit, Dabo’s All In Team Foundation, raises funds for everything from breast cancer research and substance addiction prevention to creating better lives for students with intellectual disabilities.

Most recently, faculty and staff in Clemson’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences (CBSHS) used funds from the All In Team Foundation to deliver food security programs to families in Oconee County, S.C., last month.

The program recruited 45 participants who received free boxes of fresh, primarily local produce with accompanying recipes two times per month. Participants also attended sessions, led by Clemson Extension Agent Kerrie Roach, on growing their own produce and demonstrations on healthy cooking by Brooke Brittain, a registered dietitian and program manager of public health nutrition and outreach for Clemson Rural Health.

this photo shows Clemson University's Kerrie Roach leading a program to combat food insecurity

Clemson Extension Agent Kerrie Roach offers tips to program participants on what to look for when selecting potting soil.

CBSHS delivered the programs at Blue Ridge Community Center, a non-profit center in Seneca. According to Brittain, the “crisis within a crisis” that affected so much of Oconee County has only made the need for healthy food and nutrition education clearer for its citizens.

Related: Down syndrome is no barrier to entrepreneurship for this ClemsonLIFE graduate

“People in this area face a lack of access to fresh, healthy foods in the best of times,” Brittain said, “but, over the last year, they have been faced with both COVID-19 and the tornado that destroyed or damaged so much of the area last April. Our goal is to not just provide food but to educate people on how to grow and cook it so that the food is both healthy and delicious.”

Roach also led gardening sessions, educating produce box recipients and other members of the community on effective methods of growing their own vegetables and how to pick the best soil or fertilizer for certain types of fruits and vegetables. Participants left with gardening pots, seeds, soil and fertilizer to try their hand at gardening.

Swinney founded Dabo’s All In Team Foundation in 2009, around the same time he accepted the job as head coach at Clemson.

Dabo’s All In Team Foundation focuses on five key areas: raising funds for breast cancer research; reducing alcohol and drug addiction through The Family Effect, a Greenville, S.C. nonprofit; mentoring students from diverse backgrounds who aspire to be educators through the Call Me Mister program; the ClemsonLIFE program, which helps students with intellectual disabilities pursue a college education; and a grant program for South Carolina nonprofits whose missions align with the foundation’s.

Related: Shepherd Hotel to employ adults with intellectual disabilities from ClemsonLIFE program in 2021

Individuals with intellectual disabilities seem to hold a special place in Swinney’s heart, thanks in part to the influence of the former head coach of Clemson’s chief rival for NCAA football championships: the Alabama Crimson Tide. Gene Stallings gave Swinney his first coaching job. As their friendship grew, Swinney grew to care deeply for Stallings’ son, John Mark Stallings, who was born with Down syndrome. The foundation supports the ClemsonLIFE Program in John Mark’s honor.

this photo shows Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney and his Dabo's All In Team Foundation presenting a check for $250,000 for breast cancer research.

A July 17 event created by Dabo Swinney’s All In Team Foundation raised $250,000 for cancer research and prevention.

Additionally, Swinney’s wife, Kathleen, lost her older sister to breast cancer and discovered that she and her younger sister carry the BRCA mutation gene, which puts them at risk of developing breast cancer as well. That’s why the All In Team Foundation supports a variety of breast cancer research centers, women’s clinics and related nonprofits. A July 17 event hosted by Dabo’s All In Team Foundation raised $250,000 for cancer prevention and research.

Since 2009, the foundation has raised more than $6.6 million for the organizations it supports, according to the Clemson Insider.

Swinney and his wife created the foundation to use Swinney’s high-profile platform in South Carolina for more than winning football games. “First of all, it’s just important to Kath and I to serve the community, but also to teach and empower our players to give and, really, to experience the joy that comes from being able to serve other people,” Swinney said on 105.5 The Roar earlier this year. “That’s really what I’ve always tried to teach our guys. True joy doesn’t come from confetti or trophies or money or anything like that. It comes from helping other people. From day one, 2010, our very first All In Ball that spring, we raised $90,000, and the intention of this foundation was truly to use this platform and serve, to give back. [We didn’t know] how long we would be here or have this opportunity, but we really wanted to make a difference. That’s what we’ve done.”

This article was compiled from a press release appearing on the Clemson University website and other sources.

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