In eighth grade, Todd Perry knew he wanted to become a Secret Service agent — writing down his dream for a class project.

In eighth grade, Todd Perry knew he wanted to become a Secret Service agent — writing down his dream for a class project.

The journey would be marked by turmoil at home, difficulty in school, failed job interviews and other setbacks.

But Perry never gave up, regardless of how many times someone told him no. He shared his message of how perseverance, a positive attitude, a network of support and his faith in God all helped him achieve his childhood dream. And he made sure to let Kids in Motion (KIM) participants from Bowling Green, Hannibal and Louisiana know that life is not always fun, hardships await everyone and failures are inevitable — and a learning experience.

Perry talked about how he grew up with an alcoholic father who transformed from a doting parent to an angry person whenever he drank. Perry struggled in school, but he never lost his insatiable love for reading. And he saw an epic transformation in his father, when he became a Christian and a pastor.

That milestone inspired Perry’s eighth grade project that included a description of his dream career. In the ensuing years, he faced interviews that didn’t pan out, followed by jobs that weren’t yet what he had in mind. Then, Perry took a job with the Department of Corrections before moving on to a position with the Springfield Police Department. President George W. Bush came to town to visit, rekindling Perry’s childhood dream to become a Secret Service agent. With his wife’s encouragement, he worked past the worry of being turned down for the position. After he completed each step of the application process and underwent expensive eye surgery, Perry’s dream came had finally come true.

He commended the attentive group of KIM participants for performing community projects, proving themselves, showing up for work on time and “representing something bigger than yourselves.”

Perry told the kids about several famous figures in American history who didn’t know the meaning of giving up. Colonel Harland Sanders knocked on 110 doors before he found a person to purchase his legendary fried chicken recipe. Henry Ford failed seven times before the Ford Motor Company became a successful business. Perry made sure the children knew to never give up, no matter how many times they were told no — Dr. Seuss was turned down 27 times before he published his first book. One of the KIM kids planned to pursue their dream of becoming an artist with fervor, noting, “I would have to be told no way more times before I gave up.”

The KIM kids took a great deal away from Perry’s stories about perseverance, remaining positive and focusing on their individual goals.

Gavin Corum said Perry’s presentation reinforced the public speaking skills he’s been learning with Fellow KIM participants. When Perry talked about Joseph’s tale in the Bible and how he became the second most powerful person in Egypt — seeing his brothers who previously attempted to kill him — Corum chimed in that he would thank them and forgive them as Joseph did.

“I think it’s teaching me how to talk better to other people, because when I was younger, I didn’t really talk to other people,” he said.

For Allora Hawkins, the stories of dedication behind the inventors and other famous Americans left an indelible mark.

“I liked how we learned how it all happened,” Hawkins said.

Aniya Frazier said she noticed how Perry never gave up on his dream to become a Secret Service agent, regardless of how many times he heard no during interviews.

“It was just really inspiring,” she said.

Semaj Burton agreed.

Burton vividly recalled “when he said never give up when people say no to you.”

To learn more about future Kids in Motion events or receive other information, please visit or call 573-221-3892 Ext. 246. Kids in Motion is under the umbrella of Douglass Community Services, Inc. and is a United Way recipient.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at