NFL Players Coordinate Grassroots Holiday Humanitarian Effort This Sunday

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December 23 Designated As “Gridiron Guardian Sunday” - Players donating part of this Sunday’s game checks to assist retired NFL brothers in dire need

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The response from the active players to ‘Gridiron Guardian Sunday’ has been amazing. The money is certainly needed and will go a very long way. While it is absolutely not the responsibility or obligation of active players to do this, it means the world to the retired players. Knowing that the active players care enough to help those who came before them has bridged an enormous gap.

This Sunday, December 23rd, has been designated by a group of active NFL players as “Gridiron Guardian Sunday”. Players throughout the NFL will be donating a part of their game checks to provide assistance to retired NFL players in dire need. Kyle Turley of the Kansas City Chiefs created and coordinated this grass roots humanitarian effort as a way for active NFL players to help their brothers and give back to the players who have built the foundation for today’s players. Football fans around the country can join the players in this Sunday’s initiative by making a donation at gridirongreats.org or by calling 1-800-708-1078.

Turley kicked off the project by donating an entire game check to the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund. Over the last two weeks, he has sent a letter to every active player in the NFL to gain their participation. A large number of players around the league have signed up to participate including: Matt Birk, Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, Ryan Cook, Marcus Johnson, and Ben Leber, of the Minnesota Vikings; Larry Johnson, Jared Allen, Tony Gonzales, Ty Law, John Welborn, Eddie Kennison, John Carney, and Donnie Edwards of the Kansas City Chiefs; Ephraim Salaam of the Houston Texans; Kawika Mitchell of the NY Giants; Darwin Walker of the Chicago Bears; Jacob Bell and Rich Scanlon of the Tennessee Titans; and Marques Douglas of the San Francisco 49ers. Hundreds of others have also committed but choose to remain confidential. Information and quotes from participating players is posted at gridirongreats.org.

Funds raised will be distributed through Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, an independent 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that provides financial aid and social services to retired NFL players in need. The organization was founded by Jerry Kramer and is managed by active Board Members, including: NFL Legends Mike Ditka, Gale Sayers, Willie Davis, Harry Carson, and others.

One hundred percent of the players’ donations will be used to directly provide aid to retired players. No portion of their donations will be used for overhead or other expenses of the Gridiron Greats. This initiative is about players helping players.

“I feel like this is the right thing to do; players and owners today all prosper because of the men that came before them. Many are suffering through no fault of their own,” said Matt Birk of the Minnesota Vikings. “This is an epidemic that is affecting retired players and their families, from all eras; I see this as a humanitarian issue. When I came into the league I was told that the NFL is a brotherhood and we would always be part of that brotherhood, so it’s only right for us to help our brothers.”

“When I launched this project I had no idea what kind of participation it would get I am humbled and proud that so many of my colleagues around the league have reached out to help,” said Kyle Turley, of the Kansas City Chiefs. “I coordinated this effort to help provide medicine, medical care, clothing, food and shelter to retired NFL players who are in dire need. I felt I had to do something to help. I am so appreciative of the support this project has gotten. In this holiday season of giving, it is heartwarming to know that we will be able to impact the lives of so many of our brothers in need.”

The lack of adequate disability, rehabilitation, health insurance, and retirement programs for some retired NFL players has resulted in many retired football players finding themselves in dire need. As a result, some of the men who have given so much to the game can’t afford to buy medicine or to cover medical expenses to remedy football related injuries. Some players have even found themselves without a roof over their head. Others live in isolation and loneliness, embarrassed by the condition in which they have found themselves. Many players who helped build the NFL, ravaged their bodies through years of on-field abuse and are consequently unable to maintain a quality of life and financial security for themselves and their families. The Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund was created to provide help for players who feel they’ve been forgotten and abandoned.

“On behalf of the Gridiron Greats and all of the retired players we will be able to assist in the future as a result of this effort, I want to express our gratitude to Kyle Turley and all of the others who are participating,” said Mike Ditka, board member of the Gridiron Greats, “The response from the active players to ‘Gridiron Guardian Sunday’ has been amazing. The money is certainly needed and will go a very long way. While it is absolutely not the responsibility or obligation of active players to do this, it means the world to the retired players. Knowing that the active players care enough to help those who came before them has bridged an enormous gap.”

“Words cannot explain what an impact this money will have on the Gridiron Greats organization. We will be able to immediately help so many more retired players,” said Jennifer Smith, Executive Director of the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund. “We have a committee of professionals who volunteer their time and act as custodians of the funds and they are committed to administering these funds with responsibility and great care.”

For more information, or to schedule an interview with current and former NFL players participating in the initiative, or players being assisted by the Gridiron Greats organization, call Jennifer Smith, Executive Director of Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund at (920) 499-7133 gridirongreats24@aol.com Additional information is also available at http://www.gridirongreats.org .

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