On Feb. 2, 2014, the best team in the AFC will square off against the best team in the NFC in a fight for the Lombardi Trophy at MetLife Stadium. While the Super Bowl will last for only a few hours, however, the impact of hosting the big game in the New Jersey/New York region will last a lifetime.
That’s the goal, anyway, and on Friday, Nov. 1, New York Jets Chairman & CEO Woody Johnson did his part to turn that dream into reality as the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a $1.5 million grant toward helping the community’s youth.
“Having the opportunity to touch so many children’s lives through this funding is a great benefit of hosting the Super Bowl,” Johnson said. “These projects will restore venues and serve their needs that will help the collective communities for many years after the game is played.”
The donation, which will be distributed by the Host Committee’s Snowflake Youth Foundation, will go toward creating and revitalizing venues and agencies focused on providing kids with places to play and be active, especially in the areas severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
In an effort to reverse the dangerous trends of childhood obesity, it’s vitally important to not only educate young people about the importance of diet and exercise but also to make sure that children have safe places to expend their energy, according to Dr. John Lumpkin.
“At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we envision a future in which we as a nation will strive together to create a culture of health,” Lumpkin said, “enabling all in our diverse society to lead healthy lives now and into the future, an America where all people live longer and healthier lives. An important part of attaining that culture of health is making sure that everyone has the opportunity and the access to be physically active. This is especially important for our children.”
“You have maximum leverage with the youth because you get them at the start of their lives,” Johnson said. "If they get on the right track with education, exercise, leadership, all those things that we can somewhat aid, it’s really up to the teachers the parents and the communities, but we can have a little bit of an impact on them, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
While the announcement took place at the Puerto Rican Association for Human Development headquarters in Perth Amboy, NJ, this group was one of nine receiving funding from the grant. Other recipients include the five New Jersey divisions of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Jersey Cares, Kaboom, Rahway Community Action Center, Rahway Recreation Center, Robert D. Wilson Memorial Community Center (Highlands, NJ), Toms River East High School, and YCS (Youth Consultation Service).
The wide range of projects funded as a result of the $1.5 million donation include building playgrounds, renovating wellness centers, refurbishing computer labs, and more.
“Sandy devastated this area in a pretty unprecedented fashion,” Host Committee executive officer Al Kelly said, “and to see some of the before-and-after pictures related to the different projects that we’ve been involved in to date has been a source of great satisfaction for all of us who have been involved.”
“Beyond February 2 of 2014 and the end of Super Bowl XLVIII,” Kelly added, “we want to leave something behind for the young people of New Jersey, something that they’ll be able to say, for years after the game, that because the game was here, some generous people used it as a platform for doing good and helping them develop at these places like this center that are really true oases for young kids, supplementing home and supplementing their school.”
And Woody Johnson is one of those many generous people.
“I think if my grandfather who started the foundation were looking down today,” Johnson said, “he would realize that what we’re doing was exactly what he had in mind.”