We have had the pleasure of conducting dozens of workshops for NFL teams all over the country. This month, we presented to our hometown team, the Washington Redskins. During each workshop, we explore a variety of themes related to an athlete’s role in the community, such as the value of time versus money, and how athletes can give others hope. Following each interactive workshop experience, players sign up to become AFH members, and then the AFH team speaks with each player individually to learn more about their story and charitable passion(s). Following the Redskins workshop, the AFH team spoke with Vontae Diggs, Cameron Simms, and Simmie Cobbs.
Vontae Diggs had a difficult start in life. After moving to Chicago from Las Vegas in fourth grade, he and his mother lived out of their car for several months. Despite the difficult living situation, Vontae remained focused on school and athletics.
We asked Vontae why he wanted to give back to others and he said, “I will never proclaim that I am self-made, or anything like that. There have been a million times that I have gone off-track and a hundred people have talked to me and sat me down, made sure I was doing the right things and that I had everything that I needed out of the goodness of their hearts. It took a village to raise me. I was a handful. I was a very rough around the edges kid and people saw something more in me. So I feel like I should take it upon myself to help those kids like me who have more than just anger and pain in them. To take the time to sit down with them.”
Cameron Simms is an only child and came from a very loving home in Monroe, Louisiana. “I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, but I had younger cousins. They all looked up to me.” Mentoring is a huge focus in Cameron’s life. In high school, he worked with his local YMCA to referee football games and in college, he visited a hospital and passed out footballs and met with kids. “That experience opened my eyes. I realized I’m really blessed,” Cameron said. He wants to teach kids how to make smart life decisions and keep them on the right path. Although his mom and dad were there to guide him, Cameron did not have other strong role models in his life. This experience fueled Cameron’s desire to give back to kids and keep them focused.
Simmie Cobbs grew up on Chicago’s West Side. Shootings and drug dealing were commonplace in his
neighborhood. Although his parents were divorced, his dad was a strong presence in his life and kept him heavily involved in sports and out of trouble. Sports drove Simmie. “The harder it [was on the field], the more I liked it,” he said. When his father passed away from a heart attack, his grandmother stepped in as a calming force in his life. When his grandmother moved, and he knew he wanted to stay in the same area to play sports, a friend’s family took him in. Simmie feels very strongly that because others have helped him along his way to becoming a professional athlete, he should give back and help others. He knows the Redskins are a big part of the D.C. community. “You have the whole city on your back.” He wants to do something positive that will make people happy.
These men are fine examples of how personal life experiences drive athletes to engage with the community. We really look forward to supporting them in their philanthropic journey to engage in the surrounding Washington, D.C. community.