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Archive for the ‘Causes’ Category

Tom Brady’s super buddies

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Tom Brady Best Buddies

When the Broncos and Seahawks face off in Super Bowl XLVIII we won’t see any Michigan alums on the field. But over the past decade, we’ve had the opportunity to see Michigan’s most successful alum in the NFL take part in five Super Bowls. Tom Brady has three rings and two Super Bowl MVPs, but did you know he devotes time each offseason to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)?

For more than a decade, Brady has teamed up with Best Buddies International, a global non-profit organization that helps people with IDD. Best Buddies creates opportunities for one-one-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for its participants.

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Brian Griese helping kids cope with loss

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

In 1997, Brian Griese guided Michigan to its first national championship in 49 years. But many didn’t realize that his mother had passed away nine years prior from cancer and he was still hurting.

He was drafted by the Denver Broncos and while in Denver founded Judi’s House in honor of his mother, a bereavement support community designed to help children, teens and young adults from age three to 25 deal with the loss of a loved one. Twelve years later, it’s still going strong, having served more than 4,000 children.

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David Merritt helping disadvantaged youth in Detroit

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Former Michigan basketball player David Merritt was a success story in his own right. He tried out and made the team as a walk-on in 2006. Two years later he earned a scholarship, was named team co-captain, and started several games. He was part of the foundation that led Michigan back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years.

Now, with his playing days behind him, Merritt is doing even bigger things. His clothing line, Merit, donates 20 percent of its sales to the FATE program, which helps underserved youth in Detroit.

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Marlin Jackson helping kids beat the odds

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Blake Countess’ performance this season brings to mind another recent Michigan star cornerback who made a name for himself in his first two seasons – Marlin Jackson. The former All-American finished his Michigan career nearly a decade ago and went on to win a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts. But did you know that it was pretty much a miracle that he even made it to Ann Arbor?

It’s true. And now he’s working to help other kids from similar backgrounds beat the odds as well.

Jackson retired from the NFL last season and has since dedicated his time to the Fight for Life Foundation that he started back in 2007. I spoke to Marlin about how his upbringing shaped his decision to start the foundation, what the foundation does, and how you can help.

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Wolverines providing hope in Florida hometown

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

We have shared the story of Vincent Smith’s urban garden project a few times. With a little over a week remaining in their indiegogo campaign to raise money for the project, we are making one last push. They’re still well short of their goal of $30,000, which will expand the garden that is already in place and provide programming for all of 2014.

Thanksgiving is next week, but many of the residents of Pahokee don’t have access to, or can’t afford, healthy food. Smith, along with Martavious Odoms and Brandin Hawthorne, are working to change that. Please consider donating to help this group of Michigan Men improve their hometown.

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Raising Pahokee: Former Michigan football stars expanding urban garden projects

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Back in February, you helped fund Vincent Smith’s painting project with the youth of Pahokee, Fla. Prior to that, the Michigan faithful helped fund he and Martavious Odoms’ #Eating project in which they built an urban garden for the town of Pahokee. Now, the duo is back along with fellow former Michigan football player and Pahokee native, Brandin Hawthorne. And this time, another familiar face has joined in: Denard Robinson.

The group along with Team Eating just launched another campaign, this time on Indiegogo, to continue and expand the community gardens program they have already started. This campaign has three goals. First, to expand the Pahokee garden that is already up and running. Second, to add a community garden in Denard’s home town of Deerfield Beach, Fla. And finally, to add a community garden somewhere in Michigan.

Photos from the current Pahokee urban garden

Each of the three goals carries a different monetary threshold, so if $30,000 is raised the first goal will be funded, if $80,000 is raised the second will, and if $120,000 all three will be. With indiegogo, the Pahokee crew has 60 days to fund their project as opposed to the 30 days that the previous Kickstarter projects allotted and there are currently 52 days remaining. The other difference between this one and the previous Kickstarter campaigns is that Team Eating will receive all funds donated even if the project does not reach its goal.

Smith, Odoms, and Hawthorne are dedicating their time to improving their community

You may be asking yourself, ‘I already donated to the previous one, why should I donate to this again?’ or ‘why should I give them my money?’. Well first of all, perhaps you’ve never been to Pahokee. I have. It’s poor, it’s hot, there’s not much around, and there isn’t a whole lot to do. There’s no major grocery store in town. It was once the winter vegetable capital of the world, but now business have closed and unemployment is nearly 30 percent. The per capita income is just over $12,000 and over 30 percent of the population is below the poverty line. Only nine percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree and the crime rate is about double the U.S. average.

Pahokee has been well publicized for its ability to produce football stars. Aside from Smith, Odoms and Hawthrone, several NFL stars have come from the Muck including Anquan Boldin, Fred Taylor, Janoris Jenkins, Pernell McPhee, and Reidel Anthony among others. The fact is football provides a way out, a way to become successful and avoid the pitfalls that abound in the small town that borders Lake Okeechobee.

While Boldin, Jenkins, and McPhee are busy making a living in the NFL, Smith, Odoms, and Hawthorne are dedicating their time to improving the quality of life in their hometown. They are using the garden as an opportunity to provide jobs, job training, and activities for the local youth. They’re using it as a chance to teach elementary grade students about healthy living, nutrition, and teamwork. All the while growing food to provide for the community.

Regardless of your political affiliation, we can all agree that in a time when America’s economy is struggling, people like Smith, Odoms, and Hawthorne are just what we need more of. People willing to invest their time into improving their communities and provide jobs and better education to ensure a better future for the youth.

The fact that the three played football at Michigan, got their degrees, and are putting them to use for the greater good should be reason enough to invest in them. We rooted for them on Saturdays, so why not root for them in life beyond the gridiron as well?

The campaign offers perks for your contributions. For example, a $1 donation gets you an email with photos from the garden; a $12 donation gets you an autographed post card from Smith; a $25 donation gets you an #Eating t-shirt; a $55 donation gets you an #Eating hoodie, and so on.

So why donate? Perhaps it’s an opportunity to teach your kids the value of giving back. Or simply a chance to support some former Michigan athletes that gave it their all for the team you root for and are now giving it their all for their community and the next generation. Or maybe you just want a cool new t-shirt to wear around campus. Whatever the reason, please consider helping them out and together we can be a part of the solution.

Brandin Hawthorne aims to document your gameday experience

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

First it was former Michigan receiver Martavious Odoms’ #EATING campaign in which he crowd-funded nearly $40,000 from 999 backers in order to plant a community garden in his hometown of Pahokee, Fla. Then, we brought you the story of of former Wolverine running back Vincent Smith’s campaign to fund a painting day of fun for the kids of Pahokee. He successfully raised over $2,700 from 93 backers.

Now, a third former Michigan football player from the small Florida town is running a Kickstarter campaign of his own. Former linebacker Brandin Hawthorne is asking for $75,000 to make a documentary about Michigan football and the “great tradition of tailgating in Ann Arbor.”

From his Kickstarter page, Hawthorne writes:

“Being a student athlete at a major university we never get to enjoy the festivities that all our fans celebrate, from things like welcome week and tailgating on Saturdays, to all of our different homecoming events and just hanging with the fans and enjoying the moment.

“We have been busy with our community art and garden projects down in Florida and we wanted to take the fall to also connect with our Michigan community.  Football is what brings us together, so we decided to make a video that we can share with everyone.  We have heard about what goes on during the weekends and how much fun it is and now its time to explore what makes you all the best fans in the world.”

While Odoms’ and Smith’s projects were focused on the well-being of the residents of Pahokee, Hawthorne’s focuses on you, the fans of Michigan football.

It includes Hawthorne and Smith visiting tailgating spots around the stadium checking out your recipes and barbecuing skills, exploring your personal Michigan football gameday traditions, holding a costume contest looking for the biggest fan, and seeking out and feature “the best” tailgate in Ann Arbor.

As with all Kickstarter campaigns, prizes are awarded for donating certain amounts. This one is a bit more personal and interactive than most, with a $45 donation earning a trampoline dodgeball with Hawthorne and Smith, a $50 donation getting a kayak/canoe trip with the two, a $65 donation earning a day of paintball with them, and higher donations earning personalized voicemails or the chance to partner with Hawthorne or Smith on the kayak/canoe trip. Smaller donations receive t-shirts, water bottles, autographed post cards, or copies of the DVD.

With only 25 days remaining in the campaign, they need a lot of help getting it funded, so take a few minutes to help out some former Wolverines.

A thank you note from Vincent Smith

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Vincent Smith’s goal of providing a painting fun day for the kids of Pahokee came closer to fruition on Tuesday when his Kickstarter campaign received full funding. Tonight, on the eve of Michigan’s pro day, he issued the following statement to thank those who donated.

“I would like to thank you all for your support for my pilot Painting Day for the kids. I’m trying to give back in any way I can for my community and do whatever it takes to give the kids a chance to be successful.  I’ll try my best for them and continue to be an inspiration in all young kids lives, not just in my community. Thanks once again for backing my Pilot Painting day and helping to make it happen.  I am looking forward to sharing our progress with everyone.”
– Vincent Smith

This is truly a kid worth rooting for. Stay tuned for more updates on his project.

Vincent Smith’s Pahokee painting project reaches its goal

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Vincent Smith's project has been fully funded, but you can still donate until 4:20pm on Saturday

A couple of weeks ago, I shared the story of how Vincent Smith was trying to use his love for painting to give back to the youth in his hometown of Pahokee, Fla. Yesterday, thanks to the generosity of 88 backers (and counting), his Kickstarter campaign became fully funded, which means he will be able to hold his painting fun day for the middle and elementary school kids of Pahokee.

The day of fun will be held sometime in late March or April – he’s still working to nail down the exact date – and will provide the kids with much-needed painting supplies, painting lessons from Vincent himself, and an autograph session with the former Michigan running back.

Tomorrow, Smith will participate in Michigan’s annual pro day along with the rest of the departing Wolverines who hope to either improve their stock in the upcoming NFL Draft or earn an undrafted free agent spot on a team. Last season, 25 NFL teams sent scouts to the event. Smith hopes to catch on anywhere, but thinks he would fit in nicely with a team like Seattle or Philadelphia (with new head coach Chip Kelly) that doesn’t run a traditional power-type offense. He’s also hoping to run a 4.40 40-yard dash.

Regardless of where he ends up, his roots will remain in Pahokee and his painting fun day will help give hope to the next generation of kids who need a good role model. It’s safe to say that with a good head on his shoulders and a willingness to give back, Vincent will be able to fill that role.

Once the Kickstarter campaign officially ends on Saturday afternoon, we will begin the process of choosing our winners for the autographed Michigan mini helmet and $25 M Den gift card. The winners will be announced on the site and contacted via email.

Maize and Go Blue will also recap the painting fun day after it happens, so stay tuned.

Vincent Smith using painting to give back to Pahokee youth

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Vincent Smith shows off two of the paintings he created at Michigan, "Patterns" and "Game Day"

Fair or not, his Michigan legacy is likely to be remembered most by the hit he received from Jadeveon Clowney in the Capital One Bowl (edit: Outback Bowl). But that doesn’t define Vincent Smith. Nor do the 1,845 total yards or 17 touchdowns he accounted for over the last four years. Nor does the distinction he holds as the only player in modern Michigan history to score a touchdown rushing, receiving, and passing in the same game.

No, Vincent Smith is much more than that. His backstory has been told several times, from his humble beginnings in Pahokee, Fla., to being known as the toughest player on the team despite his diminutive stature, to his relatively recent passion for painting. Yesterday, he appeared in a Sports Illustrated feature along with Clowney about where they each came from and how it all led up to the hit seen ’round the world.

But this isn’t a story about his past. It’s about how that past has shaped the man he is now and what he wants to do to help mold the next generation of Pahokee youth.

“When I was a kid, lawyers and athletes (who came from Pahokee) came back and spoke to us about succeeding, and that made an impact on me,” Smith said. “So I’ve always wanted to be able to give back like that.”

Earlier this month, Smith set the wheels in motion for his first give-back project, C2C – Vincent Smith Teaches Painting. The idea is to share his love for painting with the middle school and elementary kids of Pahokee by dedicating one day in late March or early April as a painting fun day. Smith will provide the painting materials and his time to provide a day of fun for kids from the impoverished town. He’ll teach them the basics of painting, sign autographs, and leave a lasting impression on the next generation of Pahokee youth.

Smith wants to give back to the youth of Pahokee

The project, which is being funded through the crowd-sourcing site Kickstarter, ends on March 16 – the same day the the Wolverines begin spring practice without Smith – and is currently about $800 short of its goal. If the project does not meet its goal by March 16, it will go unfulfilled and Vincent won’t get a chance to make a lasting impression on a generation of youth in need of an inspirational and tangible role model.

Time certainly isn’t easy to come by for Smith as he’s busy preparing for April’s NFL Draft. He trains five days a week in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton with fellow Pahokeean and Wolverine Brandin Hawthorne and others such as the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mattheu. He will participate in Michigan’s Pro Day on  March 14th – just two days before his campaign expires – where he hopes to make enough of an impression on NFL scouts to warrant a draft pick or at least a free agent deal. And that’s what makes this project so selfless.

Despite being hard at work chasing his dreams, Smith wants to make sure he gives hope to the youth of Pahokee who could be next in the long line of football stars to come from the Muck. But in the same way he discovered art as a student at Michigan, Smith wants to show that success can be found – and safe and constructive fun can be had – in ways other than football.

“I could always run a football camp or something like that, but I want to switch it up,” Smith said. “I like to give back to the community and this is a way to show kids there are outlets other than football.”

Smith will forever be a part of the Michigan football fraternity, and as a part of the 2009 class that featured Taylor Lewan and Denard Robinson, he helped guide the program through some rough times and set the foundation for the future. Now, he’s trying to do the same for the youth of Pahokee.

As a Michigan fan base that has cheered him on the last four years, let’s send him off with a going away present by opening our wallets to help him help others. Whether it’s $1 or $100, please consider becoming a “backer” of this project. There are rewards for you as well, such as H.O.P.E. wristbands, limited edition prints of his paintings, and more based on your level of donation.

If the project reaches its goal, everyone that becomes a backer between now and the end of the campaign will be entered into a random drawing for a $25 gift card to the M Den and a Michigan mini helmet signed by Vincent Smith, courtesy of Maize and Go Blue*.

In a sports culture full of self-absorbed players that take out $300,000 loans for their own birthday party and struggle to cope with fame, wealth, and life after football, Vincent Smith is a breath of fresh air. He’s truly invested in perpetuating the cycle of giving back to the community that gave back to him when he was a kid. It’s a story about hope and future, and there don’t seem to be enough of those these days.

*One winner will be randomly selected after March 16. Campaign must reach its goal. Winner will be contacted via email. Donation amount has no effect on chance of winning. If you have any questions, contact Vincent via the Kickstarter page or email