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Taylor Hooton Foundation Marks 20-Year Milestone at All-Star Gala

Pictured above (l-r): Chelsey Hooton, Don Hooton, Jr., Don Hooton, Sr., Gwen Hooton, Aidan Mikulas, Mackenzie Mikulas, Avery Mikulas, and, Kylee (dog)

By Alicia Wanek

The course of your life can change directions in an instant.  In July 2003 and in his senior year of college, Donald Hooton, Jr. was preparing to start a career with his business degree.  That’s when he got the call from his sister that their 17-year-old brother Taylor had passed away.  In the midst of their grief, his family could never have predicted how, through their tragedy, they could impact the lives of so many others for the better.  Now Donald works every day to honor his brother’s legacy.

Donald and Taylor were five years apart and were always close. After Donald headed out-of-state to college, the two had time to connect during long talks over the phone.  When Donald was home, the two athletes would often spend time together in the gym. They had really become not just brothers, but friends.  Just before Taylor’s death, the family had gone on a trip to Europe, and they’d had even more time to just hang out together.  When Donald got the call that Taylor had died, he collapsed in the hallway of his apartment, then packed the same suitcase he’d just unpacked from their European trip and headed back to DFW in shock.

What shocked their family the most was that Taylor had committed suicide.  All of the family had just one question. Why?

It was the detectives who found the anabolic steroids in his room.  At that time, the Hootons didn’t see the connection, but they’ve learned.  They’ve learned about steroid use and its psychological effects, and the link to suicide. And they learned the use of steroids is likely far more pervasive than you ever imagined.

Donald knew some about steroid use; after all, as a college athlete, he estimates that as many as 75% of his teammates had used anabolic steroids or some Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) at some point.  He even had had an indication that Taylor had begun using them as well.  On that Europe trip, Donald could see he had gotten bigger in which he learned Taylor had put on about 30 lbs of muscle in the first 6 weeks of using the drugs, and he told Taylor how good he looked.  On one of their walks while on vacation Taylor even said that since he started injecting himself with anabolic steroids they made him feel “aggressively depressed.”

Weeks after Taylor’s death, his devastated dad, Don Hooton, Sr. spoke to about 600 parents, teachers, and students at Plano West Senior High School, where Taylor had been a student.  Taylor’s story was told in an article in the Dallas Morning News, then by the New York Times, and then on 60 Minutes.  Then, almost 20 years ago in 2005, Don testified during the Congressional hearings on steroids in Major League Baseball.  No one seemed to know how prevalent steroid usage was (and still is). Most people don’t realize that due to a lack of regulation in the dietary supplement industry that anabolic steroids, testosterone and other banned/illicit substances have been found in over the counter dietary supplements

The Taylor Hooton Foundation was born out of the Hooton Family’s commitment to share Taylor’s story and spread the message about appearance and performance-enhancing drugs and to try to prevent other families from suffering the same tragedy they had.  Donald knew early on he wanted to help his family grow the Taylor Hooton Foundation’s message.  He started helping with the inaugural THF Golf Classic golf tournament to benefit the foundation less than a year after losing his brother and attended programs with his father.  He worked in real estate for a while but came to work full-time for the foundation as Director of Education Programs in 2010 and became President in 2016 with the aim to expand the scope of their mission and the programs they were offering.

The Taylor Hooton Foundation was born out of the Hooton Family’s commitment to share Taylor’s story and spread the message about appearance and performance-enhancing drugs and to try to prevent other families from suffering the same tragedy they had.

Under Donald’s leadership, they’ve expanded from 12 school programs each year to over 250. They’re expanding their messaging to include not just anabolic steroids but dietary supplements, energy drinks and nutrition.  Donald points out that approximately 25% of those supplements will include banned substances and even illegal drugs. They’ve incorporated new fundraisers.  Big-name speakers like former baseball commissioner Bud Selig and former MLB pitcher CJ Wilson and even Bob Costas have participate in their ALL ME Podcast which launched towards the end of 2019.

Donald says, “These podcasts give a platform for people to learn through people sharing their stories and their expertise.”  These speakers believe in the mission of the Taylor Hooton Foundation.  Bud Selig himself said, “Taylor’s story and the Congressional hearings changed Major League Baseball forever.”

Donald thinks about his brother every day.  “I hope he’s proud of the work we’re doing and what his legacy has become and how many lives have been saved,” he says.  “I hope every time his story is shared it’s making a difference.” Ultimately, Taylor’s legacy has become Donald’s too.

The THF has been hard at work for the past 20 years making an impact and saving lives.  Today the foundation has grown its message from the website resources and ALL ME Assembly flagship program on Appearance and Performance Enhancing Substances to a state-of-the-art website, a podcast that has helped it’s message reach all over the world, to adding a program to educate about Nutrition and Dietary Supplement Safety.  Using today’s modern technology, the foundation is now offering it’s ALL ME Assembly programs virtually!  

Many non-profits will fail to exist just a few years after founding them and according to the National Center on Charitable Statistics approximately 30% of non-profits will fail to exist after 10 years.   The Taylor Hooton Foundation received it’s 501c3 in 2004 and will celebrate it’s 20-year legacy this year.  As it stands today the THF is the only organization in the country that is dedicated to educating our youth and their adult influencers about appearance and performance enhancing substances.  When the non-profit was started the issues of PED’s in sports was a big problem, however changing gears over the past 20 years the driving force behind people using these drugs is due to body image and wanting to change their physical appearance.  The use of dietary supplements and energy drinks has grown substantially over the past 20 years and the THF must continue to fight to provide information to young people that isn’t being covered in our schools.

I hope he’s proud of the work we’re doing and what his legacy has become and how many lives have been saved.

Donald Hooton, Jr.

On Saturday, April 13th, 2024 the Taylor Hooton Foundation will host the 9th Annual All-Star Gala “Staying Alive” which is the single largest fundraiser it does each year.  Over 200 guests are expected to gather at Venue Fory|50 to help support and raise funds for the foundation’s important work. For tickets, tables or sponsorships information, please contact Amy Wagner at amy.wagner@taylorhooton.org or visit https://taylorhooton.org/events/9th-annual-all-star-gala-staying-alive/

At the inaugural gala the Foundation created the THF Scholarship Fund to help provide schools, associations, and community groups across America with grants to bring in THF’s important message.  This year the foundation is setting its goal to raise $50,000 that will be put toward education programs over the next year.  Editor’s Note: The Taylor Hooton Foundation is the leader in education on appearance and performance enhancing drugs. To schedule an ALL ME® Assembly Program at your child’s school or to learn more about the Taylor Hooton Foundation or the ALL ME® league, visit www.taylorhooton.org.

On Saturday, April 13th, 2024 the Taylor Hooton Foundation will host the 9th Annual All-Star Gala “Staying Alive” which is the single largest fundraiser it does each year.

For tickets, tables or sponsorships information, please contact Amy Wagner at amy.wagner@taylorhooton.org or visit https://taylorhooton.org/events/9th-annual-all-star-gala-staying-alive/

If you’re interested in supporting the Scholarship Fund and are unable to attend the gala, please consider making a donation on their website:  www.taylorhooton.org/donate

three teenagers
The Foundation was formed in 2004 after Taylor Hooton, (right) photographed here with siblings Donald, Jr. and Mackenzie just a few weeks before his death, a 17-year-old high school athlete from Plano, TX, turned to anabolic steroids and eventually took his own life.
two men at a ball park
Donald Hooton, Jr. presents MLB Advisory Board memberJason Kipnis of the Cleveland Indians with his ALL ME™ League Public Service Announcement.
father and son
Determined to make a lasting impact: Don Hooton, Sr. with Donald, Jr. at a fundraising golf tournament

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