Athletes for Hope recently conducted a workshop with members of the Washington Redskins. Following the event, our team worked with players such as Vontae Diggs who expressed a desire to give back in his newly adopted city of Washington D.C.
A few minutes on the phone with Vontae was all it took for us to understand the impact he would have in the lives of young children and a strong motivation to mentor kids. Vontae’s appetite to give back largely stems from the difficult situation in which he grew up. During high school, he and his mother lived out of their car. After a few months, the Chicago streets soon claimed Vontae as a full-time resident. His mother left to live elsewhere and Vontae spent his nights sleeping on a park bench alone. It was a difficult time in his life, but his experience now compels him to help children in similar situations. “Some folks feel badly that I grew up the way I did but, to me, it was a blessing. Without the struggle, I wouldn’t be the man I am today and will be in the future,” said Vontae. Having gathered more information about Vontae’s background, we worked with our partners at the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project which seeks to cultivate resilience in children experiencing family homelessness by providing and expanding access to transformative play experiences.
Because of Vontae’s own personal journey, he was able to connect with and relate to the kids on a deeper level. “The excitement, joy, energy, and love that each and every one of the kids I met last night had made my heart 10x bigger,” he said.
Vontae spent several hours with the kids sharing his personal story. “Bullets have no names,” he told them after talking about life in the inner-city of Chicago. He warned the preteens that “being around the wrong people at the wrong time can end everything.” After the kids finished asking questions of the football player, the whole group moved outside to play. The Homeless Children’s Project said that parents, the security guard and even a 2-year-old shelter resident all got a chance to play catch with the football player.
We’re so excited to have Vontae here in the D.C. community and look forward to additional engagement opportunities in the future. For more information about how you can support the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, visit their website.