When I was asked to write an article highlighting the positive impact the Washington Football Team and its players have on the community a few weeks ago, I was excited to help put a spotlight on some of the charities that are doing amazing work locally. Washington has a long history of getting bad press and losing games, but as former team president Bruce Allen famously said, “We’re winning off the field, but we need to start winning on the field.”
Charities come in a lot of different forms and focus on a big variety of causes to raise money and/or awareness. Some of the best charities involve helping children, especially ones facing life-threatening illnesses. I have personally worked with a charity that dealt with a life-threatening illness for my son. He was five years old when he had a seizure while in kindergarten. After several weeks (and hospitals) he was diagnosed with Moyamoya disease, a rare disorder that is cause by blocked arteries at the base of the brain. Luckily he was able to have brain surgery at Boston Hospital and, except for a few incidents, has been living a normal life. I donate to the Moyamoya Foundation every year, and was grateful for the support we received 11 years ago.
Now back to the work done around the Washington area. We’ll start with the Washington Football Charitable Foundation, which shared some information about the work they do for this article. This foundation has been around for 21 years, and continues to provide help for the community, and provides Washington players with opportunities to contribute positively.
The Washington Football Charitable Foundation is ever-present in the community, constantly working to achieve our mission to make a positive and measurable impact in the lives of children that need it most. Since Washington Football owners Dan and Tanya Snyder created the Washington Football Charitable Foundation in 2000, we have given back more than $31M to the community and currently provide support and services to more than 179,000 individuals (mostly children) annually, focusing on supporting education, children’s health and wellness and preparing them for their future.
2020 was the Charitable Foundation’s biggest year, and was highlighted by the following programs:
The Washington Reads Program is a supplemental literacy program easily implemented by teachers. The Washington Reads Digital Playbook, provided to each participating student, includes monthly prompts that encourage students to critically analyze a book(s) of their choice, focusing on different areas of the story (e.g., characters, setting, plot, etc.). Teachers and students win prizes for participation as well as the chance to host a Washington Reading Rally with current players at their school.
With many schools unable to return to in-person learning in the fall, the Washington Reads Student and Ambassador playbooks went completely digital for the first time for the 2020–2021 school year. This ensured that the Washington Reads Playbooks were accessible to 36,900 4th- and 5th-grade students in 2,300 classrooms across 215 schools and 66 school districts within the DMV.
Loads of Love
The Loads of Love Program aims to install laundry facilities in schools and non-profit organizations to directly impact children experiencing homelessness or an unstable living situation at no cost to them or their families.
In honor of National Laundry Day on Thursday, April 15, 2021, the Washington Football Charitable Foundation partnered with three local Black-owned laundromats and one Black-owned and operated Loads of Love site to cover the costs of laundry services for an entire day. Laundromats who participated, offered wash and dry services FREE of charge to all patrons during normal hours of operation. The Washington Football Charitable Foundation covered the cost of those wash and dry services up to $500 with Laundromat owners (average Thursday income for each location). In addition to providing each laundromat with the donation, each site received a basket of items that included logo decals, event day signage, PPE supplies (masks, hand sanitizers) and laundry supplies (laundry bags, basket, detergent, dryer sheets) that were used by staff and patrons.
Back to School Fair
The Back to School Fair provides children and families in need with a one-stop-shop for all of their back to school essentials, including vision and dental exams, haircuts, backpacks and supplies, as well as information around activities and after school programs.
Since 2015, this event has provided nearly 4,000 brand new backpacks, school supply kits and additional resources to students across the region – and has been an important part of advancing the Washington Football Charitable Foundation’s mission to make a positive and measurable impact in the lives of children across the DMV.
The Washington Football Charitable Foundation aims to provide as many Prince George’s County families in need with a Thanksgiving meal by hosting the annual Harvest Feast presented by Ryan Homes at FedExField.
Since 2003, Washington has gifted more than 1,512,335 pounds of packaged and fresh food and 610,500 pounds of turkey to area families.
Two weeks ago was Washington Football Team Head Coach Ron Rivera’s one year check up, and his biopsy came back negative. Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma and he had treatments before and during the season. He rang the Bell of Hope on 10/26/20, and is currently cancer-free. Players got together and made a video to celebrate his negative result.
We are all still #RiveraStrong— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) October 1, 2021
The team surprised Coach with this video and donation in today's team meeting after Coach’s one-year biopsy this week came back negative pic.twitter.com/at349DV9Ca
They also donated $25,500 to St. Jude Red Frog Events Proton Therapy Center. Players also wore a Rivera Strong decal for the team’s Crucial Catch game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The NFL’s Crucial Catch mission is to fight cancer through early detection and risk reduction. The league, its clubs, players, the NFL Player Association, and the American Cancer Society are committed to providing individuals with the tools they need to help them better understand early detection and ways to reduce their cancer risk. Each year, every NFL team raises awareness during their Crucial Catch game, which features on-field and in-stadium Crucial Catch elements. Crucial Catch games also present a special opportunity to honor cancer survivors and those currently battling cancer.
Washington also continues to support Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, and runs the Think Pink campaign that was started by Tanya Snyder over 20 years ago.
Individual players give back, too
Now I’d like to focus on some of the individual charity work that a few Washington Football Team players are involved with.
We’ll start with one of the newest members of the team, but a player who was heavily involved with the community in his former home. Starting left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. spent the first seven years of his NFL career with the Chicago Bears after being drafted in the seventh round in 2014. Leno was very active in the Chicago community and plans on continuing that good work in Washington.
Charles Leno founded Beyond the Entertainer, which is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to showing there’s more to the athlete than what meets to eye by mentoring, empowering, & inspiring the community while paying it forward. Beginning in the new year, he will be starting mentorship programs for children and teenagers who have an interest in working in the sports industry as something more than an athlete. They will continue to focus on mentoring, empowering, and inspiring local communities to pay it forward for the rest of this year.
Leno kicked off his foundation last December with “Leno Claus” and they will be bringing this event to the DMV area this coming holiday season. They are currently accepting requests from nonprofits who would be a good fit to work together.
Charles Leno has also linked up with The Hogfarmers, granting a wish from one child to speak to a pro athlete, purchasing birthday gifts for another, and hoping to do some more within the near future. In August he purchased 720 of each of the following items to donate to Mobile Hope for Afghan refugees (combs, chapsticks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, razors & hand lotions). He has been active with children in the area, buying school supplies, backpacks, board games, and more.
Jonathan Allen is another player making a big impact in the Washington area. He was named Washington’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2020. He continues to help children by providing weekend food bags, giving children access to presents for Christmas, and mentoring youth.
In 2019, Allen began working with Sasha Bruce Youthwork (SBY), which is a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC that helps homeless youth find safe homes, achieve and maintain good physical and mental health, create and strengthen supportive and stable families, and explore opportunities in education and careers. Jonathan and his wife Hannah have made significant time and financial contributions to Sasha Bruce Youthwork, including unveiling an Innovation Lounge. The Jonathan and Hannah Allen Innovation Lounge is a multidisciplinary space designed by and for youth and is located in the Bruce House, which is DC’s only homeless youth shelter for minors. The lounge offers a fun and innovative space to inspire creativity, open-mindedness and an entrepreneurial spirit among homeless and runaway youth.
We're back on a mission to raise funds in efforts to end youth homelessness in DC! You can help make an immediate impact, by pledging a donation for every tackle that I have this season.— Jonathan Allen (@jonallen93_) October 1, 2021
Click here to support! https://t.co/QqkX1Z1I2e pic.twitter.com/F3W8VnFmWT
We may not always be proud of the news that comes out about the Washington Football Team, but we can be proud of the good work the Washington Football Charitable Foundation and WFT players are doing to benefit the community.