ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Your start doesn't affect your finish.
That's the message
The group visited Dove Valley for a meal and to spend some time with Dawkins, who welcomed the children to a place "not many people get a chance to see."
"To go into the weight room, to get a quick tour of this place, hopefully that in itself will give them a little inspiration, to see something outside of the places that they have known thus far," Dawkins said. "Hopefully it gives them a little more oomph, a little more hope to be able to achieve something a lot greater than what they think they can do right now."
As the children enjoyed a meal courtesy of Chick-Fil-A, Dawkins made his way around the room, greeting each and every child. He signed autographs, he took pictures, he shared some conversations and brought some big smiles.
The Denver Children's Home works with Colorado's most vulnerable children and families: those that struggle with the effects of poverty, abuse, neglect, exposure to violence and suffer from chronic mental health problems and learning disabilities related to these experiences.
Dawkins said his hope for the evening was to give the group encouragement, that even though it's not easy to look past their current situation, there's so much that they can accomplish in the future.
"The Lord has put this on my heart to look out for those who are struggling and are going through tough situations and tough times," Dawkins said. "I do a program with abused wife shelters, and I do this for the orphanages. It's just a way for me to hopefully inspire them to not allow their beginnings to affect the finish line. They may start off a certain place, and that certain place may be a turbulent place, a rough place, but there are so many success stories, including myself, that have come through different turbulent situations. It may not be as bad as theirs, but they can come out of the turbulence of their situation and become something that can bless a lot more than themselves in the future."
After the meal, the group headed into the indoor field in the Broncos weight room, where every child took their turn posing for a picture with the veteran Broncos safety.
Then Dawkins stood in front of the group and delivered a powerful message.
He told a story of growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., when two of his childhood friends made the wrong choices, and both ended up tragically passing away. He talked about how he was always told he wouldn't make it to the NFL, how he was too small, how his grades weren't good enough, how he didn't have what it takes.
But he persevered, and he didn't let the turbulence around him get him down -- he let it fuel him.
"Where I started, I had examples of what not to do. I really didn't have an example of what to do in my neighborhood," he said. "But what I did have is a drive and a desire to do something bigger than where I was. I wanted to do something stronger. I wanted to be somebody that people could look up to and say, 'Look at him, he's doing the right thing.'"
Dawkins had the goal of being an NFL player.
So he asked the children to close their eyes and think about whatever it is they want to be.
He told them that no matter where they come from, no matter what cards they have been dealt, they have the power to become exactly who they want to be.
"My beginning may be one thing. I may have started a certain place, but my beginning does not define who I can be," he said. "Your circumstances do not define what you can be. Your beginning is such a small part of who you are, and the beautiful thing about it, ladies and gentlemen, is that you have the pen in your hand to write what is going to happen in your life from now on.
"When you face obstacles, if you continue to keep your eye on that goal, regardless of how big that obstacle is, if you really want that goal, that obstacle won't mean anything," he continued. "All that obstacle will be is another thing to help you step over. Step on top of it to reach your goal."
At the end of the speech, the children asked Dawkins a few more questions -- some about football, some about life.
"There is someone that cares," Dawkins told the children. "I care. That's why I wanted to do this."
When he left the facility, Dawkins sent out a short message on his Twitter account.
"Wow, what a blessing those kids are!" he wrote. "Big smiles and small tears of joy. What a great combo."