When Brandon Washington was growing up, his mom worked four jobs so she could provide items like name-brand athletic shoes for her son. Now as a professional football player, Washington wants to give local kids the same opportunity.
In a business class at Maryville University, Washington was explaining to the class his problem of always wanting to buy the latest shoes. It was suggested to him that he donate 10 brand-name pairs to kids that needed them in East St. Louis. Washington took that idea and expanded it to include his Rams teammates and a real challenge was born.
Washington and the Rams set out to donate name-brand shoes for 100 local kids in the St. Louis area. Washington partnered with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis to find 100 kids ages 5-17 in need of shoes because they couldn’t afford brand-name, they didn’t have the right kind or theirs were too worn. With his own funds and with contributions from his teammates, Washington shopped for the shoes to distribute at the event held at the Clyde C Jordan Senior Citizens Center.
“It’s an awesome feeling knowing where (I) come from and knowing the struggle,” said Washington. “I grew up in a single parent home, my mom had five kids, I had four brothers, and my mom wasn’t able to afford name-brand shoes for me and all four of my brothers. These kids might keep this pair of shoes for a long period of their lives, knowing they got it from a professional athlete with the St. Louis Rams.”
Along with receiving their new shoes, Washington posed for photos, shared snacks with the kids and hosted a PLAY 60 event. The NFL PLAY 60 Challenge is a program intended to educate and motivate middle school students to stay active for 60 minutes every day. The kids were broken up into four group activities: passing, catching, wheel-barrel racing and foot speed drills.
In addition to Washington’s efforts, the Rams organization held a shoe drive and collected an additional 100 pairs of shoes for the Urban League to distribute to area children.
“It feels great, it’s just great to give back,” said Washington. “These kids, when you look around and see these smiling faces, they welcomed me with a warm welcome as soon as I got out of my car.”