This man’s software company is one of the fastest growing in the U.S. by Kelley D. Evans

This man’s software company is one of the fastest growing in the U.S. by Kelley D. Evans

For some athletes, giving back is more than just a photo opportunity and autograph session. Terrance “TJ” Ford and Candace Dixon Ford like the hands-on approach. The former NBA player and his wife are making strides to change the lives of children and young adults in the Greater Houston area, where they are quite the power couple.

Ford has the TJ Ford Basketball Academy (TJFBA). According to his website, it’s a premier youth basketball program for boys and girls in the Greater Houston area that features elite and developmental-level teams to accommodate multiple skill levels. The elite-level teams are composed of top youth players who will compete nationally. TJFBA provides a platform for athletes who are committed to honing their basketball skills.

Dixon Ford is a philanthropist in her own right. In 2011, she founded Project Beautiful Me. The project’s mission is to empower young girls between the ages of 12 and 17. Its motto is building self-esteem through encouragement, empowerment and life skills.

According to the website, one program named Beautiful Me aims to help disadvantaged girls enjoy their high school prom. The prom initiative is designed to help drive donations for prom dresses, special-occasion wear, evening accessories and hair and makeup. These donations help make it possible for local high school girls to enjoy their prom by helping with the costs of attending a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Ford began his professional career in the NBA after being drafted eighth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2003 NBA draft. He also played with the Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs. Ford called it quits in 2012 after nine years in the league.

Injuries cut Ford’s promising NBA career short. He knew coaching was in his future beyond his playing days. He told The Undefeated, “I have a passion for teaching the game of basketball and helping mentor players on and off the court. My basketball academy allows me to interact with a variety of players of all levels through youth to NBA.”

Now, he’s focused on education.

“Education is very important as I continue to find better ways to help improve resources to help kids less academically sound,” Ford added.

Ford emphasized that the opportunity to coach his son and other young men is a blessing for him as much as it may be for them. “It’s a challenge at times for both of us to know when to be dad [or] coach,” Ford said.

“My son actually asked me to coach him. I feel coaching my son the past two years helps our relationship and keeps me excited to teach him the correct way to play. I know what he likes and doesn’t. It’s great to watch his growth firsthand.”

Ford has no doubts about giving back to the community. He knows the need is there and he had great teachers who taught him the importance of giving.

“Growing up, my parents always preached about if you are blessed enough to always give back to make a difference for someone else,” Ford explained. “It’s important to provide [the] opportunity that I was allowed to have as a kid. Now my wife continues to lead the way by teaching our family those same principles [of] leading by example. Over the past four years, we have influenced more than 50 kids into school from our foundation efforts. Boys and girls are going to college.”

“I created Project Beautiful Me because I saw the avenue that a lot of young girls were going down and it wasn’t something that I could ignore,” Dixon Ford said.

“I have a young daughter, and I wanted to be able to make a difference and set an example for her. Now with social media, TV and the internet, a lot of young girls are trying to be something they are not to try and fit in with the society that we are in. So to help bring awareness to all the issues they face, I felt a need to create an organization that will help them make better decisions.”

Dixon Ford is perspicacious and knows that mentoring young girls is a responsibility. She told The Undefeated that she leans on the leadership of other women to help meet that responsibility.

“Mentoring is so needed for young girls. It’s a challenge for parents, so having other positive women to help mentor girls is so important.”

Dixon Ford went on to say that one of the main goals is to help young women have higher expectations for themselves.

“These girls face so many issues while growing up,” she continued. “Not just inner-city girls with one parent but well-adjusted girls face the same problems. They all have stories of self-esteem issues, bullying, peer pressure, boys, drugs and social media.

“They all feel immense pressure to measure up to others in some way. So through Project Beautiful Me, we have mentors who encourage their ambition, empower their confidence and help them set goals for a positive future.”

Dixon Ford’s ultimate goal is to expand Project Beautiful Me to other cities. She also wants to create an online podcast with interviews and workshops to help empower young girls and women.

With the recent events occurring in the nation, Dixon Ford shared some advice to parents of African-American children:

“It has been so sad in our country. I have been limiting how much I watch the news, but I do keep my children in the know with what is going on,” Dixon Ford said. “I would advise all African-American parents to teach awareness to their kids. Keep them spiritually grounded.

“You have to be involved and in the know with what is going on in their lives at all times. We have two sons and a daughter, so we have to prepare them and educate them on racism, teaching them to respect all individuals, uphold their morals at all times and to love one another. You always have to be proactive in your child’s life. Know what they are doing, know their friends and the friends’ parents and teach your child to find friends that share the same goals in life.”

Sharon Brown is a basketball writer and founding editor of All Heart in Hoop City’s blog.

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