ALTADENA — While Ramses Barden stands in the middle of a critical crossroads in his career, the first-time free agent and possibly former New York Giants wide receiver took a timeout to speak at a local children's mental-health service.
Barden visited Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services' all-boys residential treatment facility in his hometown of Altadena Wednesday. The Flintridge Prep graduate shared with the group of around 40 people about keys to success and following your dream.
“If there's something that you want, there's no one that can take that from you because your mind is so powerful,” said Barden, who discussed playing football and basketball and some of his current business opportunities. “You can do whatever you want.”
Hathaway-Sycamores provides comprehensive services to more than 9,000 children and families annually through a network of facilities in the greater Los Angeles area. Most of those in attendance Wednesday were boys who live at the facility and have suffered traumatic experiences and struggle with “serious emotional and behavioral issues,” according to a press release.
The 6-foot-6 Barden, a former News-Press Athlete of the Year, spoke and answered questions about any and everything from the group for about an hour. He focused on the importance of school, hard work, pursuing your goals with passion, confidence and dedication and not being afraid to take a risk in the process.
“One of the biggest, most important pieces of success is knowing that's what you're going to do – eliminate the doubt,” Barden said.
The day was arranged after Barden contacted his youth basketball coach and Hathaway-Sycamores Vice President of Residential Services Joe Ford and told him he'd like to come share with the group.
“It's awesome for somebody that doesn't actually have to spend the time actually want to spend the time and give back,” Ford said, “that's just the kind of young man Ramses is.”
For Ronald, a 16-year-old in Hathaway-Sycamores program who dreams of also playing professional football, it was an unforgettable day.
“I've been playing football for three years, I quit recently and I want to get back into it,” Ronald said. “It was inspiring to meet someone who actually made it.”
Hathaway-Sycamores administrators requested last names not be used for those enrolled in their program as they're wards of the state.
“I think it's so important for them to know that even though they're going through some really, really tough times right now there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Hathaway-Sycamores Executive Vice President of Fund Development Robert Myers said. “It's so important for them to hear that message that, 'Hey, I know what you're going through right now but don't lose track of your dreams, get through these tough times and you'll go on to have a great life.'“
While Barden's talk obviously revolved around his favorite sports of football and basketball – his first athletic love – it was relatable to any career path.
He went around the room and asked the group what they wanted to be when they grew up and encouraged them to continually practice their craft and never stop chasing their hopes.
“There's not a kid in our program that doesn't have a dream and we're trying to help them get there – minute by minute, day by day,” Ford said. “[Barden's] words of encouragement fit right into the struggle they're going through.”
Once Barden was done speaking, he stuck around to hang out with the group of youngsters who huddled around him – answering questions, posing for pictures and autographing photos taken of him over his past four seasons with the New York Giants.
There's no telling what jersey Barden will be wearing next season, but that's not a concern for him.
“With me, the work has been done,” he said. “It's not something I think about or stress about. When we know we know, when it's done it's done, but until then my mind is elsewhere. I spent the time in the season being in the season. Right now, I am preparing for next season; wherever that is it'll be there.”