Last Mother's Day, 12 single moms from the Dallas area thought they were attending a health fair at the headquarters of Cowboys safety Roy Williams' foundation when two stretch Hummer limos pulled up and shuttled them to a posh mall. There they were greeted by Williams who handed out bouquets of flowers before they were treated to new outfits, shoes and makeovers.
This year Williams is planning something bigger with a spa day, where a group of women will be pampered with manicures and massages while their kids will be having fun at a go-kart racing track.
"Sometimes I can go a little crazy, but it just makes me so happy to see their faces," says Williams. "You have to respect the moms for Mother's Day."
According to the 2006 census, more then 40 percent of all babies born that year were out of wedlock and there are 10.4 million single-mother households in the U.S., but Williams didn't come from one of them. He grew up in northern California with both his mother Deborah, who works in the radiology department of Stanford hospital, and father Roy Sr., who does logistics support for Lockheed Martin. But when his sister Alecia, now 29, gave birth to his nephew Jaylen in 2000, Williams saw the struggles of single motherhood first hand.
"She was a waitress at this place called Bob's BBQ while taking classes at Oklahoma and she used to have to bring Jaylen to work and class with her because she couldn't afford a babysitter. I used to see her cry herself to sleep," says Williams who had Alecia and Jaylen move in with him his last year of college so he and his teammates could help out. "Alecia was my inspiration to start a foundation for single moms. People don't realize how hard it can be day-to-day for them."
Williams' Safety Net Foundation is in its fifth year and has helped more than 400 Texas mothers who send in requests for everything from money for school books to help paying their gas bill. After an interview process, he also accepts up to 15 mothers full-time for a yearlong program where they are offered monthly seminars on topics that range from managing money to even proper etiquette. To get a feel for college life, Williams also takes the mothers' children on a tour of his alma mater, Oklahoma, where he also donated $100,000 for the new Roy Williams Strength and Speed Complex.
"I always say that my foundation doesn't give hand-outs, but a hand up," says Williams who's reverting back to his college number of 38 this year because eight represents new beginnings in the bible. "Some of these women come in on their last hope and after a year they leave strutting their stuff which is a beautiful thing. We're building them up instead of tearing them down."
As for his own mother this weekend? She gets the spa day treatment with the other mothers as well. "I cried when he told me," says Deborah who also serves as president of the foundation. "But of course I cry at everything. Especially when you hear some of the day-to-day struggles of these moms. I just cry. So the spa surprise was a good cry instead of a sad cry."