Ratliff family sees dream come to life

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 19, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-Theo Ratliff and his family were clearly moved Friday as they saw their dreams come to life. As the grand opening ceremonies proceeded the smiles seemed to get wider and wider on the Ratliff’s faces as they began to see just how huge the impact of the center would be.

Camilla Ratliff, Theo’s mother, said she was overwhelmed with emotion.

“This is a day that has made us truly happy,” Camilla said. “I am in awe of the people who have come here this morning to help us dedicate this building.”

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Camilla said after years of planning she was overjoyed to finally have the big day in place.

“We are so thankful to be in this place at this time,” Camilla said. “We are a special people because we have the ability to work together and overcome adversity. We have been able to look back on our past and look toward the future. We have looked beyond all of our diversity and been able to unify.”

She said she was especially hopeful the building would serve to keep the people of Demopolis headed in the right direction.

“I strongly suggest we take this project, along with the many other projects in the city of Demopolis and we unify,” Camilla said. “We can make this center a model of unity and I think that will be a great thing for the city of Demopolis. Regardless of our cultural differences we come together because we are concerned about our children:”

Camilla also said the center was mostly about the children. She said this would be a chance to embrace the youth and let them know they had people in their corner.

“We can’t allow our children to walk the streets because they have been put out of school for one thing or the other,” Camilla said. “Then they become isolated. We have to wrap our arms around them, find out what the problem is, try to come up with a solution and work with them.”

Camilla said it was important that we all work together. She said people in Demopolis had to take a proactive approach toward pointing our youth in the right direction.

“We are a village,” Camilla said. “And we must raise our children. The only way we are going to be able to do that is if all of us unite together to do that.”

The center namesake was also emotional at Friday’s grand opening. Theo said he was happy to have his family there to enjoy this special day.

“I am excited,” Ratliff said. “I am very excited to have my wife here with me and I wanted her to be here for this because this is a momentous occasion. This is something that has never been done here in Demopolis and I am proud we were able to push forward and make this happen.”

Ratliff, like his mother, said their first priority was giving children a chance to grow.

“It is all about the kids,” Ratliff said. “It is about the kids and the community and making it a lot better to allow our kids to grow up to be productive.”

Theo added he was especially grateful to see the center where he grew up learning the game that would take him so far. He said several people had helped him along the way and this was his way of giving back.

“There are several people here today who helped me throughout my career,” Ratliff said. “I felt compelled to do something for this community. I felt I had to come back here and do something for the communities and the kids. I felt I needed to give them some intangible where when they think about me they think about the deeds that I do, not just what I do on the basketball court.”

Theo said he wanted to thank everyone who had helped make the project become a reality. But, he also wanted to thank one person in particular who had been with him from the beginning.

“My mom has been everything to me,” Ratliff said. “I am who I am because of her. She was the mother, the father and the disciplinarian for sure.”

Theo recalled a time many years ago when he had not gotten things done in the classroom. He said his mother let him know very quickly slipping grades meant reduced time on the court.

“She would not let me go out to the basketball court until I got my grades,” Ratliff said. “That is the type of sternness you need with your children in order for them to be successful and have a successful attitude.”

Theo said by helping establish the center he was merely doing what he felt he was supposed to.

“Whatever we can do I think we have to do,” Ratliff said. “I think we are put on this Earth to help our fellow man.”

Theo’s wife Christina may not be a native of Demopolis, but she said she has caught on to the spirit of the city very quickly. She said she has also been accepted into the Ratliff family as if she had been there all her life.

“I have been a part of this family for 11 years and it has truly been a family,” she said. “I have been embraced by their family and I am truly a Ratliff 100 percent.”

She said one of the reasons she loves her husband’s family so is the caring attitude they always display.

“This family has a lot of love, character and heart,” she said. “They are always there for each other.”

Christina said as she pulled up to the center she also was overcome by the love of the city of Demopolis.

“When I drove through here this morning and saw this building it really touched my heart,” she said. “My husband is so proud of where he comes from and I know he is proud today. This is an amazing community and we thank you for being there for each other.”