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Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence walks the walk when it comes to social justice

The Eagles continue to support nonprofits that work to reduce barriers to opportunity and end racism. In support of Black History Month, the Eagles are proud to recognize the work of one of these nonprofits each day.

The first statement was posted on June 3, 2020.

"We firmly stand with the protests and demonstrations in response to the unjust murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, and countless other black people who have suffered similar fates across the country. We are tired, we are in pain, and we are angry. We demand justice and accountability," the 591-word declaration opened.

Another was delivered in a similar fashion on October 30 following Walter Wallace's death at the hands of Philadelphia police officers.

"Walter Wallace, Jr. should be alive today. Like so many others, he struggled with mental health – a young Black man in crisis. Instead of providing the care and support he needed, he was shot by Philadelphia police officers in the street in front of his mother and neighbors who loved him. He was the victim of a broken system," the beginning read.

Nonprofits such as Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence (BBBSI) depend on donors' financial support to administer its mentoring services to nearly 4,000 children throughout the Philadelphia region each year. There were discussions about whether putting out such statements would turn off potential donors.

"It kind of got us off the fence. It allowed us to ally with partners who believe in those same values and brought us in some new donors frankly who may have not donated in the past or wanted to be involved," said Greg Burton, vice president, marketing and communications for BBBSI. "We are going to be unapologetic as we move forward in terms of standing up for what is right on the social justice front. We are going to be authentic and just put it out there because for every person we lose, I would say we gained five or six. You really do align yourselves with people who believe that social justice is something you should focus on."

"It's more than money," said Kate McCloud, vice president of advancement for BBBSI. "Our mission is to serve children, and a majority of the children that we serve are children that are affected. For us to be polite in that space just didn't make sense anymore."

It's one thing to post word salads about social justice because it's trendy. It's another to live that mission.

The pandemic forced BBBSI's mentoring programs to go all virtual, which made sense on the surface, but not every family has easy access to the internet and computer equipment. Many families involved in BBBSI lost their jobs or, in the case of one family, everything in a fire. BBBSI created community care packages – household essentials, prepared meals, activities for the family, face masks, hand sanitizer – for the first time. BBBSI delivered approximately 4,000 meals to around 600 families. Defensive end Vinny Curry chipped in delivering turkeys at Thanksgiving. This facet of BBBSI will continue moving forward.

In the wake of the George Floyd murder, BBBSI realized the need to train and educate its mentors to have discussions with the young children trying to make sense of what is happening in the world.

"If you don't have hustle in you during COVID, then you just don't have hustle in you," BBBSI's CEO Marcus Allen, the first Black CEO in the organization's 106-year history, told employees when it came to finding innovative ways to reach the children.

Rodney McLeod, the Eagles' nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, is a mentor – also called a "big" – in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. But there are several ways to volunteer. The Beyond School Walls initiative allows companies to welcome students to the workplace where they can be mentored by a professional to offer a glimpse of a real-world work environment. Mentor 2.0 provides students at Parkway Center City High School with a personal advisor and the opportunity to take college classes and finish with an associate degree upon graduation.

There are tens of thousands of success stories throughout the organization's history. Allen was a big who mentored a boy who got into some legal trouble. In court, the judge laid out several options, one of them was sending the boy to boot camp. Allen thought that boot camp was the best course of action, of course, much to the young boy's dismay. That boy – Sam Evans – eventually became an assistant principal at a high school in Philadelphia. And he credited Allen's decision in that courtroom as a critical turning point in his life.

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