PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Pleasantville’s David Zachos kicked the idea around in his head for some time to bring in a former professional athlete to offer encouraging words to Westchester County children.
The unfortunate death of his neighbor, Herk Faranda, inspired the ERA Insite Realty Agent to move ahead with his plan.
Faranda, 90, was killed in January when he was hit by a car while shoveling snow outside of his Washington Avenue home in Pleasantville. Faranda, a longtime musician who worked with many jazz musicians, gave private lessons to children throughout Westchester.
To help remember Faranda, Zachos is working to to bring former NFL player Devon McDonald to speak to youth groups in Westchester County from April 18-20. Zachos is arranging to have McDonald, who played for the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals, give presentations to various organizations. Zachos had set wheels in motion to arrange for McDonald’s visit, and Faranda’s death inspired him to push forward.
“He wasn’t just a music teacher,’’ Zachos said. “Herk was a person who cared. Kids need to have someone to turn to. He was someone who inspired kids all his life.”
Zachos feels McDonald can deliver the same inspiration. Zachos, who formerly worked in the sheriff’s office in Sarasota, Fla., set up visits for former athletes to speak to disadvantaged youth. He later worked with an agency called Sports World , which brings in former professional athletes to deliver inspirational and uplifting messages to kids. He met McDonald while working for Sports World.
“He encourages them to make positive choices,’’ Zachos said. “He tells them how it’s important to handle hard circumstances. He was able to get past a rough upbringing and make it to the NFL. He talks about the challenges he faced and how kids can reach their dream. He’s quite an inspiration.”
McDonald was born in Jamaica and was raised in Paterson, N.J. He played football at Notre Dame and helped the Irish win the 1988 national championship.
“I have seen firsthand how these gifted former athletes who have committed to empowering children can make a difference,’’ Zachos said. “They can really help turn around a young life that is headed in the wrong direction.”
Zachos hopes to bring McDonald to detention centers, halfway houses, youth football programs and other organizations in Westchester.
Zachos said McDonald delivers his message with a mix of humor, hope and encouragement. The impact is profound. “We’ve gotten response cards at some of his speeches and some kids put down they were contemplating suicide, and his message made them think and change their mind,’’ Zachos said. “We’d get calls from parents afterwards, telling me that their child has turned around. So many kids feel like they have no hope, they’re influenced by culture and have nothing to hang on to. This gives them some hope.”
Zachos and his wife, Lynn, joined ERA Insite Realty last year. Agency owners Deb and Lou Budetti are supporting Zachos’ effort to secure McDonald as a motivational speaker.
Zachos is seeking donations to help defray the cost of the program, which is $5,000. He is also seeking groups that would be interested in McDonald’s message. For more information, contact Zachos at 914-419-7192 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org