This is about giving back, about establishing a foothold in a community that for some is merely professional. It is about understanding the platform an NFL player has to make social change. Brent Celek gets it. Always has. Always will.
He worked his butt off to become a fifth-round draft pick, and then he worked harder to stay in the NFL and send his career in an upward direction. Beyond that, Celek has been a huge hit in the community, in charity and civic duty, working within the fabric of the Philadelphia media and presenting himself as more than an athlete.
So it was no surprise on Tuesday when Celek unveiled his "Take Flight Zone" plans at St. Christopher's Hospital For Children, part of his "Take Flight Foundation" that Celek started last summer. What Celek has done is create an interactive area that entire families can enjoy to pass the time while a loved one is being treated at St. Christopher's.
It's an ingenious concept, really. Who thinks about the families waiting for hours and hours while doctors tend to the kids? Many times, especially for lower-income families, the entire group has to come to the hospital when a brother or a sister needs medical attention. Celek plunked down approximately $10,000 to create the "Take Flight Zone" locker, which is filled with the latest high-tech gadgets, IPads, and games.
His goal is a lofty one: Impact two million children by 2013, and to spread his "Take Flight Zone" across the city to all of Philadelphia's children's hospitals.
"I've always wanted to focus my efforts on children in this hospitals," said Celek. "Anything I can do to bring a smile to a child's face, I'm going to do that. I've worked hard and I have had a lot of help doing this. I can't thank enough those who have helped make this happen. I'm really proud to be standing here today part of this."
Celek is going to be an Eagle for a long, long time, and when he is done he will be one of those players who stays in the area and raises a family here and who becomes a larger part of the footprint. Football has given him the opportunity to spread his wings and affect more than those who love the Eagles for how many games they win.
"When I'm done playing football, I don't want to ever regret anything. I don't want to sit back and say, 'Man, I could have helped so many kids. I could have done this. I could have done that.' I want to experience everything and help people the way I've been helped," he said. "That's just the way I've lived. Even in football, any time I can work and get better, I'm going to do it. I don't want to some day sit at home and regret it.
"My parents worked extremely hard and never failed at anything. I feel that way here. The harder I work and the more I put in, the more I'm going to get out of it."
Celek and offensive lineman Todd Herremans have bought into a sports bar, called "879," that opens soon. Those kinds of business are hit and miss, though. What Celek did on Tuesday, by planting the first seed with the intention of growing a field of "Take Flight Zone" lockers, is going to be a big winner.
In effect, Celek established on Tuesday his legacy as one of us.
"It's a fun city. I love the food here. The people are great. They are so warm to the Eagles family. When people treat you like that, you want to give back and help them."
The scene at St. Christopher's Hospital For Children on Tuesday was quite remarkable. Amid the hustle and bustle and obvious concern of parents bringing in their children for care was the sight of patients kicking off Celek's grand vision, playing on an IPad with an IV hooked up to their arm, and of examining the gizmos and gadgets and fun Celek had provided for them.
"It's just getting started," said Celek, and he meant it. "I'm going to be involved in as much as I can do to help people. That's what I'm here for. A lot of people helped me get to where I am today. I'm going to do the same for others."