Advocacy | ADHD Champions

ADHD Champions

ADHD Champions are individuals with ADHD who have overcome their struggles and blossomed in their successful careers. Their stories are tales of triumph and inspiration. Each of our Champions serves as a testament to perseverance and the ability to rise above the disorder. Our Champions see ADHD not as a defect, but as a lifelong challenge in which the best is brought out in them each and every day.


Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis is an actress who truly believes people can thrive and be wildly successful while living with ADHD. She thinks part of the success is the creative ADHD mind that thinks outside the box. Her mantra is, “Having ADHD means you are different but not defective.”

Wendy Davis starred on the Lifetime television series Army Wives for seven seasons and 118 episodes as Col. Joan Burton. She has recently guest starred on the hit shows Scandal, Castle, and Criminal Minds. 

Wendy’s wonderful interview with CHADD highlights childhood memories of living with ADHD and her path to her career. As a youth, she felt something was wrong with her, and her parents didn’t know the best way to address it. Without a diagnosis and proper educational interventions, she struggled in school. Yet in college, she recognized a career path that complemented how her brain works, enabling her to thrive in her profession.

Wendy knows many successful people have ADHD and are silent about it. She wants to shift this trend and encourage people to stand up and share their experiences.

Ty Pennington

Ty Pennington is best known as the host of the hit television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. From 2003 until the show’s last season in 2011, Ty helped rebuild over 200 homes for families across the United States, bringing joy back into their lives.

He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 17 years old and living in Atlanta, Georgia. Ty describes himself as "uncontrollable" as a child—unless he had a crayon and paper in his hand. Often the class clown, he had trouble retaining information taught in the classroom. When the teacher asked him a question, he often would respond with a joke to avert the situation. But once he got treatment for his ADHD, his grades began to soar, and his life turned around.

Pennington is a leader in the field of volunteerism and as an advocate for the treatment of ADHD, especially for children. In an appearance on the television show The Revolution, he raised awareness of ADHD by talking about his diagnosis and interviewing Dr. Edward Hallowell about the disorder. According to Ty, “It’s about the joy of doing things for others… Random acts of kindness can restore your faith in people.”


Peyton Barber

Peyton Barber is a sophomore running back football player for Auburn University, majoring in pre-business.  

As a child, Peyton always wondered why it would take him longer to “get” things. He couldn’t sit through a whole lesson without zoning out. When he did focus, it was hard to remember things later. He says he was always a slow reader and had a hard time paying attention for more than a few minutes.

At about seven years old, he was diagnosed with ADHD. Things have gotten better since that time. His parents and teachers were always very supportive and worked to find accommodations for his learning challenges. “All they ever wanted was to see me successful,” Peyton recalls.

During his senior year in high school he truly grasped the scope of the challenges he faced. That’s when he realized how many people understand information faster than he does. By then, however, he knew there were ways around his challenges. He just needed to figure out methods that worked for him.

He found, even in college, that if you let people know your situation, they are going to be very helpful. It takes patience and persistence. Football requires those attributes as well, and he has always been above average on the football field.

“If you have a challenge, or someone in your family does, don’t get discouraged,” he says. “Find your courage and keep believing. There’s always a way to reach your dreams—it just might not be the path everyone else takes.”


Max Fennell

Max Fennell
Max Fennell is the first African-American professional triathlete. Diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, Max adopted competitive sports as a way of actively expressing himself and focusing his attention.

Max placed second in his age group at the New Jersey State Triathlon, qualified for Team USA to compete at the 2013 Sprint World Triathlon Championships, and ended his season with a fourth overall at the Second AC International triathlon.

Like many people with ADHD, Max has hit pitfalls in following his aspirations. After two years of playing college soccer, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a professional soccer player. Two weeks before tryouts for a semiprofessional team, he sprained his MCL in a pick-up soccer game. It proved to be a career-ending injury that crushed all hopes of ever playing soccer competitively.

Max didn’t give up, however. He proved hard work pays off. Entering his fourth season as a triathlete, he has received his pro card, making him the first African-American professional triathlete. Ultimately, he hopes to inspire young people that through hard work, passion, and clear vision of their goals and dreams, anyone can achieve what they desire.

Luca Forgeois

Luca Forgeois is a race car driver with the Andretti Autosport Race Team. He has an impressive racing record for a 19-year-old, and never lets his ADHD slow him down.

2011: National Class USF2000 Champion
2010: FWT Rotax Senior, Supernats Senior
2009: WKA Yamaha Can and HPV Light, FWT Rotax Junior, FWT Formula Junior Tag
2008: FWT Rotax Junior

Having struggled with ADHD throughout his young life, Luca fell behind during his early years at a public school with little support from his teachers. To make matters worse, he faced constant bullying from his peers. Once he learned to view his ADHD not as a roadblock but as a special condition that could be overcome by determination and hard work, he started moving forward.

Along with homeschooling, medication, and exercise, Luca’s newfound ambition to succeed carried him far. Luca has quickly risen as one of the nation’s most accomplished young race car drivers. With endless determination and hours spent practicing on the track each day, this inspiring young man defies expectations of what someone with ADHD can accomplish.

"My ADHD has been a major part of my life, shaping me into the person I am today and influencing the person I will improve for the future,” says Luca. “My struggle encouraged me to adapt in many positive ways, and most importantly, made me more resilient in life. It also taught me that not everybody is the same, and that being different makes for a unique style of thinking and a new perspective, which is something I think we can all agree the world needs most today."

Marta Bota

Marta Bota is a local Washington, DC title holder in the Mrs. DC America 2014 Pageant. The Mrs DC America Pageant celebrates beautiful women who are successful in Family, Business, and Community. Marta has her own company ( MB FaceDesign ) as a successful Freelance Celebrity Makeup Artist!  She is married and has raised a son with ADHD, who is grown and thriving. Marta has always been a philanthropist and enjoys being active and involved in community service. Marta Bota is a true ADHD Champion, as she has ADHD herself.

Marta, who was always a bright student, began to struggle in her teen years. It was hard to focus on academics as the work load increased in high school. This made her anxious and depressed, as it affected her self- esteem. She began to model in her youth and suffered from an eating disorder. It was then that she realized that the pressures of modeling were too much for her.  She was artistically gifted and her focus began to shift into the creative aspect of the "behind the scenes" in the fashion industry. This helped launch her makeup artistry career!

Marta was not diagnosed until her son was in his early teens. During the process, she realized that all the struggles her son was having were ones that she had endured herself growing up. She was a very empathetic and proactive mother and knew the importance of proper treatment!

Marta's philosophy, regarding ADD/ADHD, is that it is a gift if you are aware and get the proper treatment.  Most people with ADHD are very creative, "out of the box" thinkers, which can translate into many successes in the "real world".

As Marta Bota competes for the title of Mrs. DC America 2014 her biggest motivator is to bring her platform of ADD/ADHD Awareness, Diagnosis, and Treatment to the public eye.  She understands the importance of making the public aware that this is not only a childhood disorder, but a lifelong one. There is nothing that would make her happier than giving back to the community that has helped her and her family thrive! With the right help you too can become an ADHD Champion!

Michael Merrilees

Michael Merrilees manages major corporate accounts for United Parcel Service. With his can-do attitude and the will to win every day, ADHD will never slow him down. He sees his challenges as gifts and loves the ability to overcome them.  Among his awards from UPS are:

2012: UPS World of Champions (Top 3% of sales at UPS)
2010/2011: UPS Sales Elite (The distinguished group within UPS that exceeds corporate goals in revenue, volume, and net revenue per piece.)

Struggling with attention as a youngster, Mike spent four times longer than his peers comprehending and retaining school work. Schools didn't adapt to Mike's different way of learning, so he took matters into his own hands. His strong family network had instilled in him the importance of hard work and perseverance, and he relied on those principles to succeed. "You cannot keep me down for a lack of trying,” said Mike. While his mother and father made sure academics came first, they stressed the importance of balancing academics with sports. So Mike learned to work hard in school as well as on the baseball diamond and soccer field. Acknowledged in New Jersey as All State Utility Player for baseball and All Conference for soccer, he continued playing soccer at the University of Scranton. He learned that balancing sports and academics helped him keep the drive to win on and off the field.

Mike was not diagnosed with ADHD until after college. Today, medication and the principles he learned early in life enable him to rise to the tasks of husband, father, coach, and mentor. Newfound ambitions carry him farther now, not only in the office, but also in supporting his son, who was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Mike wants to do more for the ADHD community because "it impacts our family daily."

He applies his talents to coaching as his father taught him. During the first ADHD Walk & Family Fun Day, this year's Hart Shetland baseball team took the field in custom wristbands while doing an honorary lap. "We came together as a community, team, and family for a good cause,” he explained, “but more importantly, I love teaching children FUNdamentals and core values.”

"My ADHD has had its ups and downs, frustrations, and triumphs, but without ADHD being a major part of my life, I would not be the person I am today,” he says. “You can look at the past and say, What if I was diagnosed earlier? Did everything have to be so hard? Or you can wake up and have a dance party with your son and daughter, put on the Lego soundtrack, and sing the song Everything Is Awesome!”

Everything thing is cool when you’re part of a team.
Everything is awesome when we're living our dream.
Everything is better when we stick together side by side
You and I gonna win forever. 


Dr. Dale Archer


ADHD did not exist as a diagnosis when Dr. Dale Archer was growing up. Fortunately, he was bright enough that being easily distracted and bored in the classroom did not affect his grades. For the most part, he managed to stay out of trouble in school by falling asleep in the back of the class. Archer coasted along through college, where I majored in philosophy.

Dr. Archer took a year off, traveling and picking up odd jobs before finally taking a solo bike trip from New Orleans to Key West to “try to find himself,” as they said back then. Although the trip was fantastic, with nothing else to do and no better ideas, he applied to medical school. He’d taken a few pre-med courses and easily qualified. Besides, his dad was a doctor, and going into the profession was somehow expected.

The first few weeks of med school were humbling. This stuff was hard, and he wasn’t going to get away with napping in class any more. Sitting down and focusing was a struggle. When Dr. Archer was not fully engaged with a topic, his easily bored ADHD nature would find anything else to do but hit the books, often procrastinating until the eleventh hour. The night before one exam he was so frustrated and restless that he got on his bike and rode hard for thirty miles. The exertion kicked up Dr. Archer’s dopamine, and he was able to stay up all night and hyper-focus on his studies, acing the test the next day. Thus he stumbled upon a strategy he could use when he needed to fully focus on a task throughout med school and later during his career.

The lesson here is that we have the tools within us that we need to succeed as individuals with ADHD. Our methods may not look conventional to more linear thinkers, but when we listen to what our traits are telling us and go with what works, nothing can hold us back.

Today, Dr. Archer is a board certified psychiatrist and distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He founded the Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a full-service mental health clinic. His first book, Better than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional, became a New York Times bestseller. The book discusses the over-diagnosis and overmedication of psychiatric conditions and defines the continuum theory of mental illness. He is now working on his next book, The ADHD Advantage: What You Thought Was A Diagnosis May Be Your Greatest Strength (May 2015).


Peter Shankman

Author, entrepreneur, speaker, and global connector Peter Shankman is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about customer service, social media, public relations, marketing, and advertising. The New York Times called him "a public relations all-star who knows everything about new media and then some," while Investor's Business Daily labeled him "crazy, but effective."


Peter is the currently the founder of ShankMinds, a global series of business mastermind sessions, as well as a consultant to Fortune 100 companies around the world, helping them improve their customer service and marketing. Additionally, Peter is a NYU Professor of Public Relations, as well as a the founder of The Geek Factory,  a boutique social media, marketing and public-relations strategy firm located in New York City, with clients worldwide. Through his blog at, he generates news, commentary, and conversation.

Among his clients are American Express, Sprint, the US Department of Defense, Royal Bank of Canada, Snapple Beverage Group, Saudi Aramco, Foley Hoag LLP, NASA, Haworth, Walt Disney World, Abercrombie and Kent, the Ad Council, Discovery Networks, New Frontier Media, Napster, Juno, Dream Catcher Destinations Club, Harrah’s Hotels, and many others.

Until he realized his ADHD could be a competitive advantage, it was tough to handle. Then he read somewhere that having a brain that's more like a race car and less like a truck could be very helpful, and it all made sense. Instead of being told to "sit down and be quiet" by teachers and friends alike, he was able to train himself to put his thoughts down on paper and get them out of his head. Once his thoughts were out of his head, he could act on them, and he wasn't frustrated anymore. This realization was a wake-up call beyond belief.

Today, Peter Shankman is a spectacular example of what happens when you merge the power of pure creativity with ADHD and a dose of adventure, and make it work to your advantage.

Jennifer Staffenberg

Jennifer Staffenberg was diagnosed with ADD in the second grade (age 7). She also has several other disabilities including: Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyscalculia (mathematical processing disorder) and Anxiety. She graduated with a B.S. in geology and a minor in education from the University of Florida with high honors.  Jennifer is currently a geology M.Sc. student at Washington State University, studying the magma chamber forensics of large volume silicic volcanism in Yellowstone National Park. As a 24 year old women, she is right where she wants to be in life. As an aspiring volcanologist, she is right where she should be.

She discovered her passion of Yellowstone volcanism when she was 18 and turned a new leaf (academically speaking) as she entered her college years. However, her academic advisor advised her against majoring in geology.  “I suggest you choose a slightly more attainable major such as elementary education, anthropology or sociology- or something that won’t be as challenging for you”.

At times this journey of becoming a volcanologist seemed insurmountable (especially having to take calculus 2 with dyslexia and a mathematics disorder), but the advisor was wrong about Jennifer and her capabilities. Sincere passion is a relentless and consuming force, and she was in no short supply of it. Not only did Jennifer succeed in completing a degree in geology, she graduated with high honors.

Jennifer’s Mantra:
“In this life I have been condemned to eternal underestimation by the weak & narrow-minded. Constantly broken down only to be self-rebuilt stronger. What I am is the manifestation of relentless dedication; the symbol of a tenacious woman that had the audacity to never take no for an answer. Relying only on the will of herself, she created a masterpiece and shaped her life according to her own desire. She possessed proactive ambition and the courage to bring her dream into reality. She proved herself victorious over the seemingly insurmountable and redefined herself against all odds. With sincere passion and determination, the greatest of heights can be reached and I am living proof of that.”

Sean Murray

Sean Murray is a junior golf player who is following in the footsteps of his father, professional golfer Kelly Murray. Kelly struggled with undiagnosed ADHD during his golfing career until the age of 48 when it was brought to his attention that Sean possibly had ADHD.

Sean seemed like any other kid in elementary school, but while other kids seemed to easily finish their work, Sean struggled and struggled. Many times he spent four or more hours just trying to get one easy math worksheet completed. His grades began to suffer. However, once Sean’s fourth-grade teacher raised the possibility that Sean had ADHD, and his parents researched the condition, Sean was diagnosed with ADHD. With the help of medication, Sean’s grades improved dramatically, as did his ability to focus and concentrate. Now a junior at East Lake High School, Sean maintains a GPA of 3.6 or higher and is taking some advanced classes.

Sean intends to exceed his dad’s golf record of winning 104 long-drive competitions. He made the third spot on his high school golf team as a freshman. He became the assistant captain as a sophomore, landing him in the first spot on the team. Despite registering late and having no experience on the course, he placed second this year at a local golf tournament in Florida. Sean is always striving to succeed and improve his game.