Recently, I was invited to ring the NASDAQ Closing Bell by Trent's Manager MJ Pedone and Allie MacLeod of indra public relations, who had secured this gig in honor of Trent's upcoming All 4 Kids Foundation Celebrity Golf & Gala this coming Sept. 9-10, 2012. This was both exciting and historical for me and not only do I get to say I rang the Closing Bell, but I got to do so alongside three other World Champions for an important cause. While I may be living the so-called "American Dream," that is not how many of us -- "us" being NFL Super Bowl Champions -- start out. Overcoming obstacles is an integral part of any journey and I for one can say from my experience that my trials and tribulations have not only added to me being at this momentous point in my life but have enabled me to appreciate and understand the position my success has put me in -- a position to give back.
Growing up in Terre Haute, Ind., I was amongst many children and families living in the crossroads of America, facing the same struggles many people deal with every day. In Terre Haute, more than 35 percent of the residents have an income below the poverty level, almost doubling that of the rest of the state and 15 percent of the residents make an income below 15 percent of the poverty level, more than twice that of the rest of Indiana. While I may have made it out of Terre Haute, I have not forgotten about that town -- neither my roots nor the people who helped me get to where I am today. I live my life remembering where I came from and thinking of ways in which I can I help those who are in situations similar to the one I was once in.
While I am known as the team goofball, there is much more to me than that. I may be the guy who walks around the locker room joining random conversations, but I do this with a laundry cart in tow so I can collect other players' gently used sneakers and cleats so I can be send them to underprivileged kids in my hometown. I compile autographed memorabilia and send it home to be auctioned off at local events in order to raise money for the community; and hell, I'll even participates in fashion shows so I can donate the clothes to the families who need them most. This isn't meant to be a laundry list of "look at all the good I do," but rather an exemplification of how giving back can be done regardless of one's personal financial situation. While these may be extreme examples and I am blessed with the backing of other professional athletes and organizations, they all highlight the key element in my charitable work -- my time. I put myself out there to ask others to help because giving back to my hometown is something I am passionate about and that passion is what drives me to do it again and again.
I'm also involved with an organization that is particularly dear to the entire Giants family and me. It is the Health & Humanitarian Aid Foundation (HHAF). Its goal is to provide medical and humanitarian aid to those whose lives have been affected by famine, war and/or natural disaster in Africa. HHAF runs humanitarian and medical missions to help those who are most in need of care. One of the most special things about HHAF is not only the incredible number of people that they assist, but the extensive range of volunteers who help them do it. With HHAF, it is not only the surgeons who are saving lives, but everyday volunteers as well. Having the opportunity to work with such a remarkable foundation and the people within it is an incredibly humbling experience, but is not one that is reserved for athletes. HHAF and other organizations are always in need of volunteers.
Charity comes in all forms and even the smallest sacrifice can help lend aid to our neighbors, near and far, who need it most. Giving back boils down to being an integral part of the human condition and there are some very special organizations that help people from all walks of life and have a place for every type of volunteer. All acts of kindness, no matter how small, are significant, and if these acts only impact one person, they will have still made the world a better place.