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Vontae Diggs Inspires Homeless Children

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.

What Drives Redskins Rookies to Give Back

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.