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Florida to partner with sports teams, athletes to tackle issues regarding children’s mental health

DeSantis was joined by her husband, Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins and former NFL player Corey...
DeSantis was joined by her husband, Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins and former NFL player Corey Simon, who is now the CEO of Volunteer Florida, and former college football coach, Lou Holtz.(WCJB)
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 4:40 PM EST
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ORLANDO, Fla. (WCJB) - Florida first Lady Casey DeSantis and her husband unveiled a new program they hope will tackle issues regarding mental health in the state’s youth.

“One of the biggest barriers, hands down, that we both saw was the stigma,” Casey DeSantis said. “I had children tell me that if they admitted that they had a mental health issue that meant that there was something inherently, innately wrong with them they told me quote, ‘That they would be considered damaged goods,’ unquote, and nothing could quote ‘fix the problem.’”

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The Resiliency Curriculum is looking to change that.

According to DeSantis, this program will focus on connecting Florida children with mentors, get them outdoors, and provide them incentives to participate in physical activity.

“This curriculum will focus on key fundamentals of teaching kids how to be resilient,” she said. “For example, problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, the value of mentorship, empathy, respect, responsibility.”

DeSantis was joined by her husband, Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins and former NFL and Florida State player, Corey Simon, who is now the CEO of Volunteer Florida, and former college football coach, Lou Holtz.

The plan is to use this curriculum in the classroom, through the community with volunteer work and with the influence of professional athletes. The Orlando Magic, Orlando City Soccer Club, the Orlando Pride, the Miami Dolphins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Florida Marlins, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers, are all expected to contribute to the program, according to DeSantis.

“The athletes are going to be on the front lines communicating this message of resiliency and hope directly to Florida’s children,”said DeSantis.

“[Athletes] are respected and looked up to by millions of kids across the state,” she added. They can share their stories “of being resilient and persevering through tough times.”

Simon, a former FSU and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle, is backing this program. According to Simon, he has seen several professional athletes struggle with their mental health and wants to help change the stigma around discussing the problems.

“I look back a week or so ago and I lost one of my brothers, I lost an NFL brother when Vincent Jackson took his own life,” Simon said. “And I look at Junior Seau and he took his own life.

“We can dress it up, we can put on the outfit we can put on the uniform and how we can look like gladiators, but inside those guys that are leaving these lanes hurting,” he added.

Simon says that Volunteer Florida will partner with the state to help arrange volunteer student activities.

Volunteer Florida will partner with the state to help arrange volunteer activities for students.

“I think all of us need a voice, and we need someone to talk to,” Simon said. “At Volunteer Florida, we’re just an organization trying to find those avenues and those opportunities for our young people and people in our communities, to have that conversation.”

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This curriculum is free for schools to use.

Richard Corcoran, the Education Commissioner, told reporters that a toolkit for teaching resiliency is available on C-Palms, a online resource for educators.

“There are some things that are cemented now. Curriculum is still starting to build, I would say that that’s you are going to be more CPalms, and then we’re going to be brainstorming how we can make this even bigger and better going forward,” DeSantis said .

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