Players Making a Difference
Michigan Men PDF Print E-mail
Written by Roger M. Groves   

Charles Woodson: A former defensive back for the University of Michigan, and perhaps the only one to win a Heisman trophy (1997), NCAA National Championship (1997) and Super Bowl (XLV). But his contribution beyond football is really where he is making a difference in the lives of others.

Woodson has recently made a $2 million gift to the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. The fund also establishes The Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund. That fund supports research for helping children with life-threatening illnesses that include cancer, heart disease, kidney disorders and autism. The hospital lobby will be named in his honor.

The hospital will contain over 1 million square feet with a 12-story inpatient tower, a nine-story outpatient tower, a rooftop helipad, and 348 beds when fully open. The initial opening is scheduled for November 2011.

But this is not just a whim for Charles. For several years, he has been an active and value-added supporter of Mott Hospital. His heart-felt activities have included visiting patients and families and soliciting donations. He put his money where his heart was by personally donating to the Champions for Children campaign to build the new Mott Children's Hospital. His long term commitment is part of why Mr. Woodson will receive the very first Mott Champions for Children Award.

This state-of-the-art facility will have cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women. So the Woodson gift is one that will keep on giving, and cements him as a Michigan Man that is truly making a difference.

Mr. Woodson has come a long way from Freemont Ohio where he was highly touted high school running back. While the avalanche of schools recruiting Charles assumed he only wanted to carry the ball, Michigan was insightful enough to say he could play on either side of the ball – or both. Woodson was already interested since his older brother favored Michigan. The flexibility sealed the deal and history shows he became one the most impactful two sport stars in collegiate history.

Dhani Jones: As Mr. Jones has stated on the Big Ten Network, football does not define him or many other people who happen to play football in the NFL. Jones is Exhibit A to the wide scope of human endeavors a player can embrace. The Cincinnati Bengals already embraced Dhani. That is why he became defensive captain of the team. But his goals exceeded the goal line. And he scored well beyond end zone. Consider the following as just a few examples. You can find him hosting “Dhani Tackles the Globe,” “Timeless” and “In the Zone with Dhani Jones” and you can read his book, “The Sportsman”.

Through these various vehicles he shares with the less-enlightened among us just what globalization is, what suffering is beyond our blessed yet often myopic experience, and how caring is a universal. For every person that reads or views his translation of experiences, whatever is absorbed is another way in which he continues to make a difference.

Braylon Edwards:
An All-American wide receiver at Michigan, winner of the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver his senior season, the first Pro Bowl player for the Cleveland Browns in nearly two decades, and star receiver with the New York Jets. Mr. Edwards promised 100 eighth grade students entering in Cleveland, where he initially played after U of M that if they achieved and maintain certain academic and community service standards, he would make a difference in financing their college education. They promised they would make it, and they kept their promise. So did Mr. Edwards to the tune of $1 million - except his promise will extend not only to those students, but whoever those students influence in the future, and whoever follows his lead in the future to do more of the same.

Braylon is a native Detroiter and established The Braylon Edwards Foundation as a vehicle to make a difference in his hometown. True to his words, "There has never been a more critical time to [provide] meaningful and impactful work than now," the Foundation hosted the Women Moving Forward and Reaching Back Brunch” that carried the theme “Strengthening the Family…Rebuilding Detroit.” He also received the 2009 Spirit of Detroit Award. Though his physical residence was elsewhere part of his heart stayed home and he continues to help those less blessed. As such he continues to be blessed.

Duke Alum and the Giving Effect PDF Print E-mail
Written by Clarence Sydnor   


With 35 NCAA tournament appearances, the Duke men’s basketball team is accustomed to attention for their basketball dominance. Several players from Duke have even gone on to make significant contributions to teams in the NBA. Off the hardwood, Duke alum: Dahntay Jones, Grant Hill and Shane Battier make significant contributions to their communities.

The Dahntay Jones Foundation was started by Indiana Pacers guard, Dahntay Jones with the vision, “To be a transformational organization focused on assisting children in need…through grants, charities, mentoring and educational programs.” In May of 2011, Jones posed nude for a photo shoot with the intention of raising funds for his youth physical fitness program; showing he would literally give the shirt off his back for his foundation’s success. Jones has also done less provocative fundraising beside Atlanta Hawks player, Al Harrington, where NBA, NFL and celebrities bowled for a cause in New York City.

Seven-time NBA All-Star Grant Hill of the Phoenix Suns and his Grammy-nominated wife, Tamia support national initiatives for children and education, as well as local initiatives in both Orlando and Detroit. The Tamia & Grant Hill Foundation allows the couple to make significant donations of their time and money to support charities, scholarships and non-profit organizations. Hill and his wife are also on the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s advisory board, where they garner support for under-resourced students.

Duke alum, Shane Battier of the Memphis Grizzlies does his part to ensure students reach their dreams of obtaining higher education. The Battier Take Charge foundation, which he runs with his wife Heidi, provides four-year scholarships to students in the Detroit and Houston areas. Battier, who was instrumental to the success of the Memphis Grizzlies reaching the playoffs this year, hopes his scholarship program will be instrumental in the success of all its recipients.

The Duke men’s basketball team has celebrated on-court success for many years. Under the direction of Coach Mike Krzyzewski (aka “Coach K”), the team will likely continue that success. Hopefully Duke will continue to recruit and develop players who not only shine on the court, but make a difference off the court as well.

Clarence Sydnor - July 5, 2011

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NFL Players Honor Their Mother’s by Giving Back PDF Print E-mail
Written by Clarence Sydnor   

What do Warrick Dunn, Brian Griese and Charles Woodson all have in common? Besides being on field superstars, each have foundations started in part to honor their mothers. While Dunn and Griese have retired from the NFL in recent years, their commitment to giving back has not wavered.

Warrick Dunn played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons for a total of 11 seasons. Dunn was a 3 time pro-bowler and has rushed for over 10,000 yards and scored over 40 touchdowns. The only thing more impressive than Dunn’s on field prowess is his off field charitable work through the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation and its Home for the Holidays program. Dunn’s motivation to start the foundation came from his mother’s desire to own a home. His mother who was a Baton Rouge, LA police officer often worked extra hours in private security, in the hopes of one day owning her own home. During one of her extra shifts she was gunned down, leaving Warrick the eldest of six children to care for the family. Armed with the passion of his mother Warrick began to sweeten the deal for single parents who purchased their first home. His foundation has provided over $2 million in furnishings and $500,000 in down payment assistance to homeowners in Baton Rouge, Tampa Bay, Tallahassee and Atlanta area since inception in 1997.

Brian Griese lost his mother at the age of 12 to breast cancer. Griese, a pro-bowler with the Denver Broncos, continues to be celebrated for his off field contributions to families battling cancer. Griese established Judi’s House in Denver, CO to assist grieving families cope with their losses and has helped over 2,700 families since 2002. Griese, now an ESPN analyst, played for the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Chicago Bears. During his career he passed for over 19,000 yards, was selected to a pro bowl in 2000 and wears a Super Bowl ring from Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999.

With over 600 tackles, 13 sacks and 47 interceptions Charles Woodson is the definition of an All-Star. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and won a Super Bowl title with the Green Bay Packers in 2011. While playing with the University of Michigan, Woodson earned the prestigious Heisman Trophy award and has been the only primarily defensive player to achieve that feat. Woodson and Griese have collaborated on giving efforts because of their connection to the University of Michigan. Woodson has a charitable foundation the Charles Woodson Foundation which has given an award of $2 million to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and has annual scholarship funds in both his name and his mother’s name Dr. Georgia A. Woodson at the University of Michigan.

-Clarence Sydnor

MLS Stars Shine off the Field PDF Print E-mail

Major League Soccer and international stars David Beckham of the L.A. Galaxy and Thierry Henry of New York Red Bulls are known the world over for their accomplishments and celebrity on the field but are celebrated equally for their exploits off it.

GQ photo shoots and Pepsi commercials aside, the pair, who rank #1 and #6 on list of the world’s richest soccer players in 2010, use a lot of that celebrity power to push their charitable organizations. Henry’s “One 4 All Foundation” named after his #14 jersey number, is dedicated to fighting racism and social inequities. He is also involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a cause which came about after finding out that the infant daughter of his best friend was stricken with the incurable disease.

Beckham and his wife Victoria, a former pop singer and member of the Spice Girls, do a lot of work through the Victoria and David Beckham Charitable Trust. The Beckhams have charitable interests in fighting malaria, AIDS and hunger in children all over the world. Both Henry and Beckham have also been named international ambassadors for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Now based in the US, both players are expected to utilize their new-found American celebrity to push a philanthropic agenda even further.

-Stefan McHardy