Draft Makes Impact on Nation's Captial

April 25, 2009

Draft Makes Impact on Nation's Captial
Draft Makes Impact on Nation's Captial
Draft Makes Impact on Nation's Captial

While Rams linebacker Chris Draft was honored to receive a J.B. Award for Community Service in recognition of his off-the-field work throughout the 2008 season, he knew that heading to Washington D.C. for the award ceremony would give him another opportunity to make an impact.

Draft took full advantage of that opportunity last week as he met with the Chancellor of the Washington D.C. Public Schools, shot videos for the environmental agency, participated in two football clinics and lead some of his fellow NFL players on a tour of the White House.

“I think it was a great opportunity, not just going up there for the J.B. Awards, but to go up and really take advantage of being in. D.C.,” Draft said. “In the last year and a half, we’ve been able to do more work as a foundation (in D.C.) and to be able to use those other couple days was very important to furthering that relationship.”

Draft started his week with a trip to a place he was very familiar with, Benjamin Banneker Academic High School. Earlier this year, with the help of school Principal Anita Berger, Draft was able to show the film “The Great Debaters” to the Benjamin Banneker students and have them compete in an essay contest. Draft treated the four essay contest winners to the Rams-Redskins game and a tour of the White House.

Wednesday, Draft was able to reconnect with Berger and the students and become reacquainted with the school. He was also able to meet with Washington D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who has been featured in “Time Magazine” for her work with the schools. Draft spoke with Rhee about how to continue making an impact on the kids in the D.C. Public Schools and will continue working with Rhee in the future to make sure it happens.

Draft was also able to assist the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday. He participated in several video shoots as a thank you to the award winners at the EPA’s national forum, which will take place in June. He also shot a video which will be part of the National Lt. Governors Association’s Winning with Asthma Campaign.

Thursday’s main event was the J.B. Awards for Community Service, which were awarded at the NFL Players Association Gala. Draft was one of 12 NFL players to be recognized for his work in the community.

“There aren’t too many times, unfortunately, that you really get a chance to see the great things that the players doing outside in the community,” Draft said. “With the J.B. Awards, it gives people just a glimpse. As I said at the (J.B. Awards Welcome Reception), I hope the people that were there witnessed the players and what they’ve done and were willing to share that information with their friends. I also encouraged them to keep looking, because it’s not just 12-15 guys that are holding it down in terms of the community, there are a lot of men in the NFL that are doing great things.”

Draft also had the opportunity to take part in a Special Olympics football camp Thursday morning, alongside some of the other J.B. Award winners. Draft played football with the kids, but also brought the message of the Character Team™, teaching the kids to be the best people they can be.

It wasn’t all football camps and award ceremonies for the Rams’ No. 52. Following the Special Olympics camp, Draft sat down with the National Endowment of the Arts to talk about their Big Read program. Draft spoke with them about his own initiative, the Literacy Leaders™ and how the programs could work together to really make reading important to kids.

Friday turned out to be a very busy day for Draft, highlighted by a tour of the White House’s West Wing that he was able to set up for the J.B. Award Winners. The tour brought a group of NFL players that had been recognized for their community outreach to the house that is advocating for everyone to become more involved.

“All the Super Bowl Champions and NBA Champions and World Series Champions get to go to the White House based on their athletic ability, based on something they did on the field,” Draft said. “With taking the J.B. Award winners, it sent a message that it was important to celebrate what people are doing on and off the field. They do great things on the field, but they also do a lot off the field.

“Also, in going to the White House, I got a chance to leave a couple Asthma Team™ shirts, because the President’s daughter, Malia, actually has asthma. I wanted to leave some shirts and let her know that asthma can’t stop her, and asthma can’t stop me.”

Draft also had an opportunity to participate in another football camp, this time with student-athletes at H.D. Woodson High School as part of the NFL Players Association’s Training Camp for Life. In the morning, as part of the Chris Draft Family Foundation’s Military Appreciation initiative, Draft stopped by Walter Reed Army Medical Center to help lift the spirits and say thank you to the servicemen and women of the United States Army.

“Walter Reed, that’s something that is always part of the trip, being able to tell the soldiers thank you,” Draft said. “You think you’re going in to really be able to lift their spirits up a whole bunch, but most of the servicemen and women that are there, they have a great attitude. They know what they did, they know why they’re fighting and they have a great attitude. It’s great to be able to go in there and tell them thank you, and at the same time be able to see that they’re upbeat, and they’re working to get better.”

No matter where he went, Draft was able to take and spread the messages of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, whether it was awareness and prevention of asthma through the Asthma Team™, becoming better citizens through the Character Team™ or saying thank you to the military. Draft was even wearing his Character Team™ gear around D.C. when he and his girlfriend, Keasha Rutledge, took a tour on Saturday before heading back to St. Louis.

“Every place that I go, we get a chance to bring the messages,” Draft said. “I think we pretty much hit every initiative with the contacts that we had. Doing the video with the EPA, we really got a chance to talk about the Asthma Team™. Saturday couldn’t have been a prettier day in D.C., and Keasha and I were out on segways riding around the D.C. mall area letting everybody know about the Character Team™.”