SANTA ROSA BEACH — It was a morning full of happy tears and smiles on Tuesday in Walton County, as a single, working mom came home to a big surprise; her new home had been fully decorated and furnished as part of Warrick Dunn Charities “Homes for the Holidays” program.
Dunn is a former FSU and NFL running back and recently made ESPN’s list of the top 150 college football players in college football history. His charity sponsors homes across the country, helping hard-working single parents make homeownership an easier reality.
New homeowner, Nancy, came home on Tuesday to the surprise that her own home that she built with Habitat for Humanity had been chosen by Dunn to completely furnish and decorate at no cost to her.
This is Dunn’s 177th home that his charity has worked on, and the first one in Walton County. He worked with Aaron’s furniture and appliances in Panama City Beach to furnish the home, including the bedrooms of her two daughters, Zoe and Willow.
“I just want to break down and cry,” said Nancy. “Because everything I do is for them.”
She’s raising her daughters alone after discovering her husband was abusing her 4 year old. She left him behind to protect her children, but the road to financial stability has been bumpy.
“I’m constantly thinking of what I’m going to have to do next,” she said.
Little did she know, Dunn understands her story on a personal level.
“I thought about my mom and her dream of home-ownership,” said Dunn.
His mom never got to watch that dream come true; she was shot and killed in the line of duty as a Baton Rouge police officer.
“I’m the oldest of six so I had to raise my five brothers and sisters,” he said. “I had to become an adult overnight.”
Now, after a successful football career he’s giving back to other single parents like Nancy, helping them live out his mother’s dream.
“I’m speechless,” said Nancy. “It’s surreal to see it come to completion, just surreal.”
Dunn said the parents he helps remind him of his own mom.
“They have a lot of the characteristics that my mom had, commitment, sacrifice,” he said. “They’re dedicated to providing a safe environment for their families.”
For Nancy, it means the world.
“It fills me with a sense of pride,” she said. “To know that my daughters are going to be able to come into a home, feel comfortable.”