Chicago Bears Pro Bowl offensive lineman Kyle Long is known for his performance on the football field—but this spring he made headlines off the field as well, announcing plans to help renovate Starr Park near the west side of Chicago and send 125 students at neighboring St. Malachy School home with backpacks full of food each weekend during the school year.
To make this possible, Kyle is partnering with the Dreambuilders Foundation, which supports professional athletes across the country in their philanthropic efforts—primarily focusing on disadvantaged children in the areas of education, wellness and extracurricular activities.
To provide food for the students at St. Malachy, Kyle and Dreambuilders are working with Blessings in a Backpack, a national nonprofit organization that provides food for elementary school children across America who may otherwise have little or no food to eat on weekends during the school year. Through this partnership and funding from UnitedHealthcare, students at St. Malachy will get the nourishment they need to grow and learn.
[pullquote]“Giving back to a city that has taken me under its wing”: @chicagobears lineman @ky1elong on feeding Chicago kids[/pullquote]
The Chicago Community Trust sat down with Kyle to talk more about this partnership and why he gives back:
Q: What inspires or motivates you to give/do good for others?
A: Food and I have a pretty good relationship, and I know how tough it is when you go without eating. When I found out a lot of Chicago kids go without food on the weekends, I knew I wanted to help somehow. I’m lucky to do that with the support of UnitedHealthcare and Blessings in a Backpack. You want to send these kids home with easy to make, easy to use healthy food for the weekend so they can come in on Monday energized and ready to learn.
Q: How do you think giving creates stronger communities?
A: I’m not from Chicago, but helping out in the community helps me feel like I am a part of it. Starr Park and St. Malachy School feel like home—I can stop by, see the kids and hang out with them. Being present for these kids is important to me, letting them know that someone cares and believes in them. I hope knowing that will have a positive impact in the lives of these kids moving forward.
Q: You are a philanthropist—what advice do you have for others who want to do good?
A: I am just happy to help out and give back to a city that has taken me under its wing. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to do good for others. There are always things you can do to make your community better—for example, volunteers pack the backpacks at St. Malachy’s every week. No matter who you are or what you do, you can help out.