Tony Robbins, 55, is a New York Times bestselling author, life coach and entrepreneur based in Palm Beach, FL. After growing up in a household where food was often scarce, he went on to make the largest donation from an individual ever to Feeding America. In his lifetime, he had provided 42 million meals. But this year he created the 100 Million Meals Challenge, which will feed 100 million meals to the hungry by the end of 2015. As of August, the Challenge has raised 80 million meals, 50 million of which were Robbins's personal donation.
"I was a kid, and my alcoholic parents were fighting. My father, a metal tools salesman, lacked confidence in his ability to be a good provider, and my mom enjoyed making it clear that he wasn't. It was Thanksgiving, and we had no dinner.
I remember that there was a knock at the door, and I answered to find a tall man holding a box of food, an uncooked turkey in a roasting pan at his feet. I had no idea where it came from, but I was elated. But all my dad saw was a handout. 'We don't take charity,' he barked, and went to shut the door.
But the man stuck out his foot. 'Someone wants you to have this,' he said. 'Don't let your ego get in the way of taking care of your family.' My father took the meal and slammed the door without thanking him. I cooked the turkey, and that night we ate like kings. My father left us a few days later.
That experience taught me the power of a stranger's concern, and it set off a ripple effect. When I was 17, I asked my local church for the names of two families in need. I had saved enough money from my janitorial job to buy groceries and deliver them anonymously. The next year, I fed four families. Then eight. As my career grew, so did my ability to provide. Now, I donate 20 meals for every person who attends one of my speaking events via a local food bank. I know the joy of giving as both the recipient and the provider.
You don't have to be rich to buy someone a meal, to offer them comfort and sustenance. With $5 and a little creativity, you can fill a child's belly and help a family feel human again. That Thanksgiving delivery changed my future, and turned the worst time of my life—my dad leaving— into the best time, because it taught me who I didn't want to become…and who I did."
September is Hunger Action Month! , and help the 100 Million Meals Challenge reach its goal.
Tony Robbins is pictured at the Crest Theater at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts.