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NFL Draft Prep: Reflecting on the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl

NFL Draft Prep: Reflecting on the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl

If you’re a football fan, you probably already know what the Senior Bowl is. You already know that it’s one of the biggest pre-NFL Draft events of the season where elite prospects – and soon we can drop the word “prospects” and replace it with “players” – from all over the country are invited to Mobile, Alabama to showcase their talent to coaches, scouts and decision-makers from all 32 NFL teams. 

What you might not know is that since 2017, Athletes for Hope has had the privilege of presenting to each Senior Bowl class and helping them understand how to turn their charitable passions into action while leveraging their platform as athletes.

From strict COVID-19 protocols to our session being the first in-person workshop we’ve held for almost a year, everyone’s 2021 Senior Bowl was a little different than years’ past. But that was really where the differences ended. Lead by Athletes for Hope CEO Ivan Blumberg, players were engaged, inspired and since our workshop, we’ve had countless conversations with them on how they can give back to their communities. 

So apart from prepping for the NFL Draft, what have some of these Senior Bowl athletes been up to since January?

Alabama’s Najee Harris spent an afternoon at the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) helping pack kid-friendly food items for NTFB’s Food 4 Kids Program which provides backpacks full of nutritious foods and snacks to elementary school children experiencing food insecurity. He also moved pallets in their warehouse (which in all fairness might count as prepping for the Draft).

Pitt’s Patrick Jones II has been volunteering at various food banks across southeast Virginia, packing grocery bags, stocking shelves and sorting produce.

Duke’s Noah Gray joined the Philadelphia Phillies’ Sam Fuld’s TD1 Sports Camp where he spoke to campers about his experience living with Type 1 Diabetes as an athlete.

Education is at the core of Athletes for Hope and at the beginning of every charitable athlete’s philanthropic journey. We know this is just the beginning for not just the athletes mentioned above, but for so many soon-to-be NFL players.  

We know the draft starts in Mobile. Where does an NFL prospect’s journey in turning their charitable passions into action start? Answer: also in Mobile.

Detroit Lions Bring Joy to Children’s Hospital

Making kids smile! What could be a better mission than that? That’s exactly what the Detroit Lions players set out to do this week at St. John’s Children’s Hospital. Teammates Nick Bawden, Leo Koloamatangi , Trevor Bates, Jamil Demby, Brandon Powell spent the afternoon playing with the kids in the Children’s Play Room and walking room to room to meet with kids who were unable to leave their beds. A visit from an NFL Football player can really make the day of a child too sick to play and go to school. We thank the Lions players for giving back to the Detroit community.

When an athlete wants to make a hospital visit and they call Athletes for Hope they are often connected to a children’s hospital in the Starlight Children’s Foundation network. Starlight Children’s works within hospitals to bring moments of joy and comfort to hospitalized children and their families. They do this through several programs that provide crafts and games, fun and soft character gowns, playground equipment and fun toys within the hospital setting and now through a new program called Starlight Xperience. This virtual reality experience transports hospitalized kids virtually anywhere.

Athletes for Hope is a proud partner of Starlight Children’s Foundation and we hope to connect even more athletes to kids in hospitals all over the country. If you are an athlete and are interested in this opportunity, please contact our team. We will be glad to make a connection for you!

Vontae Diggs Inspires Homeless Children

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.

Olympians Get Austin Kids Moving

On March 9th, on the East side of Austin, 6 professional and Olympic athletes took time out of their busy schedules to visit Brooke Elementary, to encourage kids to exercise and stay active. Brooke Elementary is a neighborhood school where 96% of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch. It is also a community of kids and administrators who are trying new and innovative ideas to keep kids engaged and learning. With this in mind, we connected former WNT soccer star and Olympian Kristine Lilly, former NFL player Octavious Bishop, Olympic Decathlete Trey Hardee and Olympians Sanya Richards Ross, Kendra Chambers and Fiona Asigbee with the kids. First, the athletes stood up and shared a little about themselves. Octavious shared his struggle in academics as a child and how he was able to turn it around and earn his PHD. Trey Hardee talked about being cut from his basketball team, only to become a gold medal winning Olympian. Their inspirational stories were followed up with fun physical activities with the athletes. We truly enjoyed facilitating this athlete visit – the largest visit of this type we have ever coordinated. Hats off to Brooke Elementary students and administrators for making us feel so welcome.

austin lmas

 

Athletes for Hope Presents at the NCAA Senior Bowl

This time of year, college seniors are pushing hard to get through the end of their last semester and are preparing for the start of their careers. The same is true for student athletes, many of which have their sights to the NFL.

Our team had the privilege of presenting to this year’s Senior Bowl class where top college football players would display their talents before the NFL draft.  Some of today’s biggest NFL stars have played in the Senior Bowl. As evidence, nearly every season at least 30% of those in attendance will end up in the NFL.

Our CEO, Ivan Blumberg, presented to a room full of players and the coaching staff. By the end of it, nearly every athlete there signed up to give back to others through Athletes for Hope. The top three causes athletes expressed interest in were:

  1. Helping children become more active
  2. Helping kids get a better education
  3. Reducing global poverty and hunger

The feedback from the event was very positive and many of the players offered their thanks and praise during the open discussion. For example, some of the comments said include:

  • “Great information that made me realize my responsibilities as an athlete”
  • “Inspirational!!!”
  • “I had a clear understanding on the process to help the community and how I can be more engaged in foundations that I want to be involved with.”

It was an honor to present to the NCAA Senior Bowl and to work with the organizers on this effort. We look forward to working with this organization and student athletes to make this world a better place.

Athletes for Hope Hosts Workshop for the Redskins Rookies

The NFL has recently placed a higher importance on professional training that includes giving back through the community. It was our honor to provide this important training opportunity for the Washington Redskins rookies.
 
 
Our CEO, Ivan Bloomberg, presented our 1.0 workshop to 23 of the Washington Redskins rookies. After the workshop, the players got to act immediately on what they learned. The team arranged a NFL Play 60 event right outside of the training facility. 200 local kids had earned the right to meet the players and take part in various activities. Players spent time teaching the kids the fundamentals of passing, punting and kicking.

Thank you to the Redskins and to the rookies for their participation. We look forward to working with them and the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation to create even more valuable connections in the coming months.