by Carolyn Kaberline
Special to The Leaven
TOPEKA — The product of divorced parents, he’s faced eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and drug addictions. He’s served time in prison for the death of a passenger in a car he was driving while drinking.
But Nathan Harmon is on a different track now. And he spends his life sharing a message of hope and accountability with young people across the country.
Having turned his life around, Harmon is now the most requested school speaker in the United States. He speaks on topics like peer pressure, bullying, overcoming adversity and the power of every choice made. As he tells his audiences, “Your life speaks.”
Sponsored by Sole Reason, Harmon is currently scheduled to speak in seven Topeka area schools — including Hayden, Seaman, Washburn Rural and Topeka High — during the week of Nov. 12.
He will also be speaking at Hayden High School the evening of Nov. 15 in a free public event beginning at 7 p.m.
“I found out about Nathan last Easter morning after Mass,” said Jerry Hudgins, founder and president of Sole Reason, a Topeka nonprofit that specializes in the collection and distribution of new sneakers. “I went home and prayed for a way to do something else for kids in need in our community and went to bed.
“When I awoke, I picked up my phone, and Nathan was the first thing I saw on my phone. I was intrigued about what he does so I watched some of his videos and knew he had to come to help these kids in Topeka.”
“The next day,” continued Hudgins, “I began the process of bringing him to Topeka.”
Hudgins began Sole Reason while working at Catholic Charities and wanted to do something else for the community. He came up with the idea of collecting sneakers in response to Pope Francis’ call during the Year of Mercy. Last year, the organization gave away more than 1100 new pairs of sneakers and anticipates more than 1600 pairs will be given away by the end of this year.
“While this event does not really relate to our mission of providing new sneakers to kids in need,” said Hudgins, “I just believe in the kids in Topeka and want to help make them be successful in life.
“I am getting tired of losing our youth to suicide, drugs, alcohol, bullying and other issues facing them today. Just today in North Carolina, [there was] another senseless tragedy. This guy (Harmon) changes and saves lives.
“If he can save just one life, it is worth it.”
Hudgins recommends Harmon’s program to youth 10 years of age and older.
“The doors to the Nov. 15 event will open at 6 p.m.,” said Hudgins. “His events are about an hour and a half in length. He talks on topics from real life experiences.”
Hudgins notes that while there is no charge for the Nov. 15 event, freewill donations will be accepted.
For more information on Harmon, visit his website at: www.yourlife speaks.org.
More information on Sole Reason can be found online at: www.sole reason.net.