CAN’T STOP THE FEELING
By Ann Marie Scheidler
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LISA SCIASCIA
By Ann Marie Scheidler
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LISA SCIASCIA
Have you ever met someone who just knew they were born to leave the world a better place than they found it? Chicago native and Grammy Award-winning drummer, composer, best-selling author, inventor-turned-entrepreneur, and educator Prescott Ellison is just such a person.
“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way,” Ellison says. “But I’ve always known I had lots of ideas. I’ve always known I was special.”
It could be Ellison’s 88-year-old father, Wilbert Ellison, who instilled this belief in his son when he opened his own restaurant in Chicago—Wilby’s. “My dad taught me all the things—the infrastructure of a business, what it’s like to have a dream and turn that into something, and the importance of hard work,” Ellison says.
Such lessons in his formative years took shape when Ellison began drumming. A self-taught musician with unwavering determination, Ellison caught the attention of musical greats. For more than 20 years, he toured the world and recorded with Christina Aguilera, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, and Brian McKnight to name just a few. He is featured on 25 albums and won a Grammy Award for his performance on Justin Timberlake’s album Justified.
For some, this level of success would have been enough. Yet, Ellison knew he was called to do more.
“I made a conscious decision to pursue a more purpose-driven life that would allow me to pursue my other passions that included nutrition, fitness, and education,” he says.
Being on the road and traveling constantly made it difficult for Ellison to maintain his healthy lifestyle—one that his mother, Hattie, had always stressed the importance of when he was a child.
“Sometimes, I couldn’t find a gym or maybe I didn’t have enough time to go down and use the hotel’s fitness center, so I would create my own using the chairs in the hotel room,” Ellison adds.
Inspired by Leonardo Di Vinci, one of the world’s greatest inventors, Ellison came up with the idea to design and create “The Body Bench”—a portable bench that could be used for a full body workout, including calisthenics, isometrics, stretching, yoga, and cardio.
“During COVID when gyms were closed, we sold out of The Body Bench,” he says. “Everyone wanted one because they could achieve a complete workout with this simple, portable piece of equipment.”
Building off his success with The Body Bench, Ellison wanted to expand on his message of better health to the masses.
“I always say that we should act our energy, not our age,” he explains. “People want to know where my energy comes from, and I want to educate others on what I know to be true.”
So, Ellison decided to take his teaching to schools. Drawing from another childhood hero—Walt Disney—Ellison created a nutrition and fitness curriculum for grades kindergarten through fifth based on a series of illustrated characters he drew at the age of 7.
With the support of his business partner Andrew Belmonti, a Highland Park native, Prescott launched The SuperFood Friends, a team of super-powered fruit and vegetable characters who engage, inspire, and educate children about nutrition, fitness, and environmental awareness. The curriculum is currently taught in schools in Las Vegas where Prescott lived before moving to his current home in California.
“Youngsters these days have access to so much information, but often they’re bombarded with misinformation that can lead to counterproductive nutritional choices that can affect them for the rest of their lives,” Ellison says. “The SuperFood Friends program helps teach children to be nutritionally literate, to make informed choices about their lifestyles, and encourages them to stay active.”
Ellison’s grassroots efforts have been recognized by leaders across the country. In addition to receiving the Barack Obama Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award, Ellison has received the 2017 Childhood Obesity Prevention Award, secured endorsement from the Nevada Department of Agriculture, and was granted the 2016 Field to Fork Award.
This year, Ellison will welcome the arrival of The SuperFood Friends live production TV show that will carry on in the tradition of Sesame Street. It will feature live characters and puppets that will interact with children on the show who will participate in fun and engaging activities with The SuperFood Friends.
The SuperFood Friends is an extension of Ellison’s belief that everyone has unlimited potential.
“Instead of telling people they have a purpose, I’m going to show them that they do,” Ellison explains. “We’re going to empower youth through wisdom and knowledge—show them where they want to go and make them believe they can do it. For me, it’s always been about outcome over income. This is how I’ve separated myself from the pack.”
To learn more about The SuperFood Friends and an upcoming exhibit with them at The Art Center Highland Park, follow Prescott Ellison on Instagram @prescottellison.