The inspiring book of one man led to an extraordinary day of hope and resilience. At the Nexus Family Healing Building Connections virtual event in July 2020, Dr. Aeva Doomes, Medical Director for Nexus-Woodbourne Family Healing, shared a story about how donors can help support meaningful events and connections on campus. She shared that several youth and staff had read The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose, a book written by local author Chris Wilson, and wanted to bring Chris Wilson to campus to speak to youth about his life experiences. At the event, a new donor reached out and expressed interest in helping make this lecture happen.
Journey of Hope and Purpose
Growing up in a tough neighborhood in northeast Washington, D.C., Chris Wilson was surrounded by drugs, crime, and violence. Chris dropped out of school in the 8th grade after he witnessed a police officer brutally rape and beat his mother. This event destroyed Chris and his family—he watched his mother become addicted to drugs and at the tender age of 17, Chris Wilson took the life of a stranger. The courts sentenced Chris to a life in prison without parole. Chris was determined to not let life in prison be his entire future—he wanted to turn his life around. While in prison, Chris attended weekly therapy and received unexpected support from the parents of a fellow inmate. At age 19, he created his master plan of all of the things he wanted to accomplish in his life, including graduating high school and college, travel, write a book, and become an active member within his community. He typed this master plan while in prison and printed three copies: one for the judge, one for his grandmother, and one for himself in his cell. After serving 10 years in prison, Chris was able to get a sentence modification hearing. The judge reduced his sentence to 24 years, and with good time credits Chris was able to walk out of prison after serving 16 years. Chris Wilson is now a Social Entrepreneur and owns several businesses.
Staff at Nexus-Woodbourne knew his story would be powerful for their youth to hear. Therapist Arneisha Woods reached out to Chris Wilson to see if he could speak to their youth. She explained that the youth we serve at Nexus-Woodbourne needed to hear his story but knew that we could not afford his speaking fees. Chris said he would donate his time and talent if Nexus-Woodbourne was able to purchase his book for the youth to read ahead of time. Knowing they would need at least 50 books, Arneisha wasn’t sure if they could make it happen. Our Nexus Foundation for Family Healing had an idea. They reached out to Barnes & Noble to see if they could help provide the books at a discounted rate and they said yes! Dr. Aeva Doomes personally purchased 10 additional books to make sure Nexus-Woodbourne staff could also read the book before the lecture. The books were on their way.
An Event to Remember
Arneisha Woods reconnected with Chris Wilson and arranged for him to speak to youth in early October. To meet the safety concerns during COVID, this event was held socially distanced outside for Residential Treatment Center youth and staff. Arneisha asked Eric* to introduce Chris at the start of the lecture. Eric is a soft-spoken and shy youth, but he rose to the challenge! Not only did he introduce Mr. Wilson exceptionally well, but he talked about how reading this book inspired and impacted his life.
Oftentimes these types of activities will encourage some youth to act out or leave without permission, but that was not the case for this event. Youth were excited to attend and were open, attentive, and asked lots of great questions. This event was truly one our youth and staff will never forget.
*Name changed for privacy.