Growing up, I was fortunate to be surrounded by goodness. I was a good kid from Hollis, Queens. I got good grades, had loving parents and felt connected to my neighborhood. When Run D.M.C. formed in 1981, none of us could have imagined the success and adoration that we received and would come to enjoy.
Fast forward 15 years. I was the King of Rock, but I found myself a 35-year-old spiritual wreck -- an alcoholic and depressed, even suicidal at times. On my birthday that year, I asked my mother for details about my birth. After learning how much I weighed and the hospital I was born in, she called me back an hour later and informed me that I had been adopted and prior to my adoption, I was a foster child.
Learning the truth about my childhood filled a void in my life that I never knew existed. It put my life in perspective and challenged me to move forward in a more positive way. I realized that fulfilling my childhood dream as a hip-hop artist was a result of the love, support and goodness that surrounded me growing up. I also learned to appreciate the life lesson that with hard work, anything is possible.
After discovering my past, I felt the need to give back to the community that raised me and remember thinking to myself, "community organizations should do more than just distribute turkeys on Thanksgiving and disappear."
Three years ago I connected with the Garden of Dreams Foundation. It was exactly what I needed and what I was looking for. Channeling my newfound strength into an organization that had the same goals as I did set me on the right path and offered me an opportunity to make an impact on a child's life the way my parents and community did for me.
Garden of Dreams has created thousands of once-in-a-lifetime experiences that have brought ongoing joy and happiness to hundreds of thousands of children and their families, including those facing homelessness, extreme poverty, illness and foster care.
The Foundation and I believe that the best way to give back to our children facing difficult situations is to provide them with opportunities. We help lay the groundwork for them to grow and become a strong and positive influence for themselves, their community and society as a whole. It is my experience that when you present a child with an opportunity, they don't just do well, they excel. I am a living, breathing example of this. I never imagined that this foster kid would grow up to be the King of Hip-Hop. They look at me and see infinite possibilities.
A special and once-in-a-lifetime event that Garden of Dreams provides is an annual talent show where the kids have a chance to forget their problems and perform on the Great Stage at Radio City Music Hall.
Every year that I participate, I am amazed at the level of talent these children have. The most endearing moment during the event is when the kids say to me, "I've never had this opportunity. Nobody ever believed in me; nobody ever let me. I didn't even know I could do this!" Ultimately, whatever they are struggling with, this opportunity provides them with hope, support and love that they will carry with them for the rest of their life. These children are destined to be our next presidents, doctors, journalists, entertainers, lawyers and scientists. If you dream it, you can do it -- that is the lesson that Garden of Dreams teaches their children.
I will always be the King of Rock, but I only got there because of the people who believed in me. Each and every day that I have the privilege of spending with these children is inspiring. I see a piece of myself in all of them.
I hope you can join me in this movement to support kids as they "dare to dream" at Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday, April 16 and perform with emotion and passion; forgetting their problems and celebrating their unique talents.