The words “former Buckeye” are valuable in Central Ohio, but they also come with expectations. Roy Hall, president and co-founder of the Driven Foundation, has tried to live up to them.
Hall started the foundation in 2008 during his NFL rookie year in Indianapolis. He’d held a youth football camp in Cleveland, but was challenged by a woman afterwards.
She said, “This is really nice. This is a great experience for our kids. But do you have anything that’s going to help these kids when they go home and they don’t have anything to eat?’”
Teaching an 11-year-old how to run a 40-yard dash is fun and inspiring. But long-term impact comes from getting in the trenches with families to work on their problems, Hall says.
In the beginning, Hall heard “no” a lot. Driven wasn’t large enough, established enough and focused enough. Most often, people asked: Are you going to be around in five years?
Many former Buckeyes and professional athletes start foundations.
“Once your athletic career ends, and usually it’s not because you want it to, the foundation isn’t a priority anymore. It goes to the backburner because now that athlete who was running the show and was the face of the organization has to figure out how to pick the pieces of his life up and transition into life after football,” he says. “The majority of the time, it’s not through their foundation.”
Hall wanted Driven, originally the Roy Hall Driven Foundation, to stand the test of time. It had to be about the cause — to promote perseverance and to build hope through service.
Even after the name change, Hall is still the face of the organization. But lately he’s been joined by his co-founder and vice president, Antonio Smith, another former Buckeye and NFL player. Hall jokes they’re like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, back together again.
Nearly a decade in, Driven solves community problems, cutting through red tape. It often reverse engineers back from an issue, and nothing is too small.
For instance, someone might have a cousin in an area where multiple families are struggling with a specific problem. He or she might ask: Is there anything that we could do through the Driven Foundation to help benefit them?
However, Driven also has regular programming. One of the biggest is its holiday food outreach, which is expanding this December. It will give 1,000 Columbus families in two school districts a week’s worth of food.
Another is Outreach Days, where Driven invades an Ohio school district with former Buckeyes and NFL athletes to push another nonprofit’s mission and vision.
“We leverage our platform for their purpose. By bringing the Buckeyes in, it attracts more people. It attracts different donors and supporters,” Hall says.