ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — When Mike Sadler died suddenly in 2016 at 24 years old, his mom, Karen Sadler, had no idea the impact he already had on tens of thousands of people.

He was a star punter and kicker for Michigan State University, and was volunteering at a kicker camp in Wisconsin before he died in a car crash on the way home. Seven years later, Karen Sadler can still see the impact of the work he didn’t have the chance to do.


Mike Sadler wore the No. 3 jersey for the Spartans. His unwavering integrity and the choices he made in his life continue on with that same No. 3 represented in the Gamechang3rs program.

Karen Sadler created the Michael Sadler Foundation, and subsequently the program, which focuses on six core pillars: leadership, academics, service, character, teamwork and resilience. Among these, character takes center stage, advocating the practice of integrity and humility in all aspects of life.


Empowered with the mission to pass on Sadler’s legacy, Gamechangers ambassadors play a pivotal role in the program.

Forest Hills Northern High School Seniors Dhani James and Celina Du, who started their journey as eighth graders, now lead the charge in educating younger students about the principles that guided Sadler’s life. They shared anecdotes and stories that make these principles relatable, fostering a deep understanding of how positive choices can lead to impactful outcomes.

One particular lesson, “Don’t be a Debbie Downer,” has left a lasting impression on the students. This lesson encourages maintaining a positive outlook, especially during challenging times. For instance, James and Du were students in one of the first Gamechang3rs classes when the pandemic hit. They used the Debbie Downer lesson to transform their perspective and embrace opportunities for growth.

“We felt really helpless at first. But I guess, instead of being a Debbie Downer, you make most of your time at home and really enjoy that time,” said Du.

Operating within a district with a Spanish immersion program, Gamechang3rs ambassadors have a unique opportunity. Dhani James noted that teaching in Spanish not only improved her language skills, but also enabled her to connect with fourth-grade students on a deeper level.

“It was really nerve-wracking, but then it also made me a lot better at my Spanish, I think, just like conversationally, and then also because I was in the fourth grade class, they don’t know everything yet, so I got to be able to, oh, they have a question, I can help them with this in Spanish, or teach them a word, something like that,” James said.

Her ability to communicate effectively in both languages enhanced the program’s impact.

Teaching these lessons transformed the ambassadors’ understanding of the core pillars. Du highlighted that sharing these principles reinforced her personal commitment to leading a life of integrity and character.

“Teaching these lessons has also reinforced it in me personally and they’re not just for kids. I believe these six pillars can apply to everyone and so that’s what’s so great about Gamechang3rs, in my opinion,” said Du.

Through the efforts of dedicated ambassadors and the enduring legacy of Mike Sadler, the Gamechangers program continues to empower students to become catalysts for change in their community. The program serves as a reminder that a single individual’s integrity and character can inspire generations, creating a ripple effect of positivity and transformation.