Man hopes to save one child

Aside from his Harley-Davidson, Dan Horrigan doesn't have a whole lot of material wealth. But he's chock full of experience.

He has spent four years in Folsom Prison for drug dealing, nearly died three times from cocaine overdose, attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest and won a battle with bone cancer.

If you ask the 6-foot-4-inch, 240-pound Horrigan, he will tell you he is not an "educated" man, but he boasts of his alma mater.

"You know where I got my degree? The School of Hard Knocks." he said Thursday afternoon at the Boy's & Girl's Club of Western Nevada.

"I might not be able to read or write very good, but I can share my life with people."

And he does just that in between feats of strength during hour-long demonstrations at schools and youth programs in Carson Country.

He shows off his martial arts skills breaking bricks with his elbow, shattering bats with his shin and cracking coconuts with his bare hands. Throughout, Horrigan is spreading his message about making the right choices in life and steering clear of drugs, alcohol, gangs and violence.

"Sure I break stuff," he said. "But that's just a tool, it doesn't mean anything to me. I live one day at a time to change a kids life."

Two months ago, Horrigan's 12-year-old program, "Breakthrough Crime Prevention," received non-profit status.

Partly because of the high demand for his program at schools, and partly because of a car accident in 1999 which damaged his back, it became increasingly difficult for Horrigan to sponsor his demonstrations solely by himself. The non-profit status makes him eligible to receive donations.

Carson City Mayor Ray Masayko supports Horrigan in his efforts.

"He wants to provide a positive anti-drug message to the youth of the community. If it takes martial arts to get their attention, then so be it," Maysayko said.

"I know Dan has tried to get some sponsorship, but even if it doesn't come through he still speaks."

Dayton Intermediate School Principal Neal Freitas agrees the martial arts get's the kids attention, but that's more a photo opportunity than anything.

"The first day he does the demonstration. But the second day, no one sees him as he is in the classrooms talking to the kids," Freitas said. "Some kids are oohing and aahing over the coconuts being broken and some really hear what he is saying."

Horrigan's latest goal is to open up a gymnasium for children in Carson City that will run from the hours of 3:30 to 7 p.m.

He plans to sell his Harley to pay for the costs of opening the gym.

"Oh man, I'll have to talk to Dan about that," said Jeff Evans, Carson City High School dean of students.

Evans said he has been friends with Horrigan for about four years and often accompanies him on demonstrations and fundraising events. Evans is also a martial artist.

"Dan is 100 percent genuine," Evans said. "This is a guy who went on the wrong side of the tracks for a little while and now wants to try to stop someone else from taking that path."

Horrigan talks about a gym he has founded on the southeast side of town. He has done the math and figures it would take him about $1,500 a month to just pay the rent and run the lights. He said $10,000 would get him started and he thinks perhaps he could raise that money with the sale of his bike.

"I mean, who am I? I am one guy, I can't change the world - well maybe, with one kid at a time," he said. "I'm gonna open that gym no matter what. All my life if I say I am going to do something, I do it."

Freitas summed up Horrigan's motivation simply.

"His heart's as big as his body," Freitas said.

Donations can be sent to:

Breakthrough Crime Prevention Program

P.O. Box 4464

Carson City, Nv 89702

He can be reached at 882-0807


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