Lost in all of the talk about contract extensions, OTAs, and Kansas City’s plans at wide receiver are the things current players are doing right now in the community. The Chiefs have seen their fair share of players who have been forces in local philanthropy such as Derrick Thomas and Brian Waters – both of whom won the NFL’s Man of the Year award.
Maybe one of the more quite forces in community has been Derrick Johnson, whose “Defend the Dream” foundation is dedicated to giving inner city youth the ticket to a better life through education.
“Education is the target,” said Johnson. “My Mom was a teacher for over 40 years, and she’s instilled a lot in me at an early age that kids need to be good at school. Especially the ones in inner city area, the low budget homes, because that’s their ticket out.”
Johnson’s goal is to impact more than 30,000 at-risk Kansas City children by the end of 2015, a task that requires a lot of help. Part of that help comes from us, the Chiefs fans, who packed Grand Street Cafe in Lenexa for Derrick Johnson’s Second Annual Celebrity Waiter Night.
Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Tamba Hali, Dontari Poe, Dee Ford, Eric Fisher, and about a dozen other players showed up to play the role of waiter to hundreds of Chiefs fans who came out to show support for Johnson’s foundation and participate in a silent auction.
Johnson’s teammates were eager to serve.
“I really appreciate them and what they do” said Johnson. “Whenever we have an event where we are helping young kids, my teammates they jump on it. So I didn’t have any problem about having them come out.”
For Chiefs first round draft pick Dee Ford, it was his first charity event as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. He used the night to learn from Johnson about how to give back to the community.
“Right now I’m just trying to fit in where I fit in and see how things work,” said Ford. “I want to do something of my own, be creative with it. I like things like this. One of the reasons why we have the level of influence that we have is to be able to do things like this.”
Along with ticket sales, the event included a silent auction that featured signed memorabilia from Smith, Hali, Charles, and Ford. Unsurprisingly, Charles’ signed jersey was the highest selling of bunch.
With the money raised from events like this one, Defend the Dream is able to do a lot of things to help Kansas City students prepare for the school year and succeed in the classroom. His Gearing Up! event, for example, takes 300 inner city students to a local retailer to purchase school supplies and clothes for the new school year.
Hitting the Books, another Johnson event, is a literacy campaign designed to bring families, schools, and communities together to support children’s literacy. By the end of 2015 the foundation will have provided more than 30,000 books to young students.
You can learn more about Defend the Dream here.