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Donald Driver Unveils New Awards Program
A blockbuster event on Saturday will highlight community workers.

Donald Driver (photo courtesy of Lammi Sports Management)

Donald Driver held back tears but still smiled widely as he spoke the words.

“Everyone does something in their life for a reason,” the former Green Bay Packers receiver told a crowd gathered today at the Pfister Hotel. “I grew up homeless. You don’t forget where you came from.”

With that in mind, Driver has created the Driven to Achieve Awards, an initiative to recognize the accomplishments of charities, companies, community leaders and celebrities. Athletes are always in the spotlight on or off the field, says the now-retired Driver, and he hopes to share the spotlight with people making a positive impact.

A black-tie awards ceremony, set for 6-8 p.m. Saturday at the Pfister Hotel, will grant more than $200,000 to selected charities. Hosted by Good Morning America’s Josh Elliott, the event will honor seven winners who have given back to their communities. And it was as Driver described each recipient’s dedication that his eyes began to mist up.

Lynda Kohler, President and CEO of SHARP Literacy, will be recognized for her efforts in helping thousands of urban school children in the Milwaukee area become confident readers and writers. On average, students who participate in the literacy program improve their skills by 40 to 70 percent.

Kohler reminisced about the phone call she received from Driver. “It was almost surreal,” Kohler says. “He took a liking to our mission, and he believes in it.”

Driver makes each phone call to the winners of the Driven to Achieve Awards himself. The calls usually include screaming and yelling, “Oh my God, this is awesome!” in the background, Driver says. “You never know how you’re going to touch someone’s life.”

The awards ceremony features a silent auction, dinner and a private performance by Gladys Knight, the "Empress of Soul" and a seven-time Grammy Award winner.

“It’s truly an honor to honor these great people,” says Driver.

Below are the winners and their charity of choice. Check out the Donald Driver Foundation website to learn more about each of their efforts.

Anthony Robles, Make a Hero

Douglas Meijer, Blessings in a Backpack

Gladys Knight, Multiple Charities

John Bergstrom, Fox Cities Boys & Girls Clubs

Laura Ziemer, Miracle League of the Lakeshore

Lynda Kohler, SHARP Literacy

Patti Gorsky, Make-A-Wish

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