“They” say if you do what you love for a living then you will never work a day in your life. Although I feel humbled and fortunate on a daily basis by the work that I do, I have an extra bounce in my step when I’m able to see two of my loves come together: football and helping people.
Little Miss Football works at one of the largest food banks in the state, serving 4 S. FL Counties, approximately 550 partners, and reaching almost 1 million people who don’t know from where or when they will get their next meal. We provided over 30 million pounds of food and grocery products in the last year, through a variety of programs, including our Mobile Food Pantry.
Through this program, we were fortunate enough to have been included in James Lee’s Annual Muck City Fest, a one-day football camp and city event that provides resources to the community, with a focus on kids. Muck City Fest provided games, books, prepared food, gift bags, and most importantly, inspiration and a positive example for the kids of Belle Glade. As part of James Lee event, the food bank brought 20,000 lbs of fresh produce and toys to families in need, who otherwise don’t typically have access to such items.
In addition to having the honor of serving the community, perhaps the highlight of the weekend was having the chance to meet some of the NFL Players who flew into town for the sole purpose of supporting the football camp and providing support to the kids. However, meeting the players wasn’t a highlight because I have an affinity for the NFL; it was the highlight because it provided the opportunity to discuss their community involvement and hear directly from them why they do what they do.
Turns out, community service and all the charity work the NFL does, isn’t required; most players do what they do for the community because they want to, and recruit their teammates to help them support each others causes. Sure NFL teams have Community Relations staff in the front office, and sure NFL teams have Marketing teams working on public appearances, but these events are from the individual hearts of players. In between the off-season, training camps, OTAs, and preseason, the players are spending their coveted off-days traveling to support each others communities, provide leadership to kids, and offer inspiration for new generations of kids who see the opportunity to grow, become successful, and learn the importance of giving back.
Some see sports as entertainment, fantasy teams, and trash-talking. In addition to entertainment, others see sports as a vehicle to help accomplish something bigger. The best part? Players see it as both; they see it as a job, but also a responsibility to use their talents off the field. As a result of James Lee’s philanthropy, his former and current teammates were inspired to have a food distribution at their own football camps and city events. EJ Biggers will be hosting a football camp on July 21st and has asked the food bank to do a food distribution for the city of North Miami Beach. http://starsoftomorrowfoundation.org/hangout-day.html
Each Thanksgiving, the Miami Dolphins (and other teams around the country) support the food bank through a turkey distribution with the support of Publix. Players not only provide turkeys, sides, desserts, and beverages for almost 1,000 families, but they also sign autographs, have their mascot and cheerleaders on site, and create a special memory for those who may not otherwise have the ability to get to the stadium and pay for a game.
As the 2012 NFL season prepares to start soon, it’s amazing to see that players always have the community on their minds and in their hearts- not just during the regular season. Through these distribution events, and players recruiting their friends to help them serve their hometown communities, it is my sincere hope that with each football player who participates in these events, another distribution opportunity is created, thereby feeding south Florida one person at a time.