Darryl McDaniels, superstar founder of Run-DMC, learned he was in foster care and adopted at age 35. His inspiring story exemplifies the mission of RetailROI’s SuperFriday event.
More than 350 people in the retail industry came together for a RetailROI virtual fundraiser on Friday, January 9. This was the group’s first SuperFriday event after running SuperSaturday events for the past 10 years.
It was also the group’s first virtual event. “This event was totally unplanned until about two months ago when people from the retail industry came to me and said ‘we have to do something.’ So, in just eight weeks we created SuperFriday,” said Greg Buzek, president of IHL Group and founder of the Retail Orphan Initiative (RetailROI).
We Are All on a Mission
Despite the short notice, RetailROI was able to line up a keynote speaker that is a hip hop and rock-and-roll legend. Darryl McDaniels (DMC) is one third of arguably the most influential hip-hop group and, inarguably, the group most responsible for pushing hip hop into mainstream popular music and cross-over superstardom. Run-DMC's long record of success ultimately led to its induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
Like the other two members of Run-DMC – Run (Joseph Simmons) and Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) – McDaniels grew up in Hollis Queens, New York City. Although living in a tough neighborhood, McDaniels told SuperFriday attendees his childhood was in a stable home environment with a loving family and “a close community of nearby families that cared for everyone else.”
Here are excerpts from DMC’s RetailROI virtual keynote presentation, during which he wore a black Doors logo T-shirt:
- “I went to a Catholic school my whole life, a straight A student, always on the honor role, played sports, and at times I got into trouble but not bad trouble. You had to go up to the avenue to get into the real bad trouble, so it was there. And despite the good community I grew up in there seemed to be more bad than good in the neighborhood and not many opportunities.”
- “We didn’t have a music for our experience like other generations with Elvis and folk rock and Woodstock, but all of a sudden hip hop came over the bridge to the Queens from the Bronx and it was beautiful.Until then I didn’t have a way of telling people who Darryl is and who young people were in my generation. I wanted to use positivity, because all I saw represented were pimps and drug dealers and I didn’t see people with hope represented.”
- “So, here comes this kid wearing glasses and going to college and he is expressing himself in the same way as gangbangers in the neighborhood."
- “I was accepted to St. John’s University and wrote a rhyme about it, and then I got a call from a childhood friend who said four years ago that if he ever got a chance to record he wanted me to be in his group. So Run called and we took my rhymes and made our first hit record.”
- “We were the first hip hop group to go gold, platinum, get the cover of Rolling Stone, score a big sneaker deal, breakthrough to superstardom, but I had an uncomfortable emptiness. I was not right inside. The scales were tipping in the wrong direction. I was drinking a case of 40-ounces a day, and I wanted to kill myself. But I thought before I go I want to write a book and I called my mother and asked her three things: how much did I weigh, what hospital was I born in, and what time of day was I born? She told me and she said she loved me and we hung up. Then she called back and said ‘I have something else to tell you. You were a month old when we brought you home from foster care and adopted you and we love you.” This was a shocking revelation but a peace came over me and I realized I had the best mother ever, the best father ever, the best brother ever, and then it gave me some energy.”
- “I started feeling alone and I came down with acute pancreatitis and almost died in the hospital. The doctor told me I can stop drinking and save my liver or start drinking and die.”
- “Fortunately, I got to meet someone who was also adopted and we formed the Felix Organization to give children the power to be the people they want to be, to educate and inspire and teach life skills. In 2006, we created a six-week sleep away camp for foster kids and I have learned this is what I was really put here to do. This is what I was meant to do, my purpose and destiny.”
- “In addition to being the greatest rapper ever, beyond music, hip hop taught me to keep it real, and now when I meet people and they learn I am a foster kid or we start talking about caring for kids all around the world I have found a community of people who are helping like Retail ROI. This is a great community to be in. I was the first entertainer to go and perform in South Sudan, no one knows this, but there are child wars there and child soldiers, and they need help to rehabilitate the kids who have been traumatized by the war.”
- “We are all on a mission."
The strong participation from the retail industry helped SuperFriday raise $210,000.
One highlight from Buzek’s RetailROI overview pointed out that in 10 years the charitable group has raised a total of $4.3 million to help fund in-the-field projects to support vulnerable children.
The groups signature project, the Bercy School in Haiti, now includes a medical clinic, classrooms for grades nine to 11, computer labs, a multi-unit guest house, eight family life homes for students, a soccer field, a plantain farm, and a community kids' camp.
The Bercy School has also created 300 local jobs. Future plans include adding a 12th grade, a solar power system, expanding the clinic, expanding clean drinking water for the community, adding an elementary school, and adding sustainable farming projects.
One phrase used by Buzek summed up the SuperFriday event: "Teamwork makes the dream work." Everyone’s role may be different but we can all contribute to the common goal of supporting vulnerable children in the United States and around the world.
Click here for on-demand viewing of the event.