On Tuesday, October 18th, members of the New York Jets gathered at P.S./I.S. 33 Chelsea School on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan to participate in the seventh-annual Hometown Huddle initiative, a partnership between the Jets, United Way of New York City, and the NFL.
Hometown Huddle is a league-wide initiative in which all 32 NFL teams simultaneously work in the community through their United Way partnerships. The partnership between the United Way and the NFL is in its 31st year and remains the longest-running sports/charity relationship of its kind.
"This is a great opportunity for the kids to see the players in person working along with people in the community," said the United Way's Michelle Gonzales Matheson. "We are so thankful to the NFL because the contribution they've given the United Way to get people involved in the community is invaluable."
Upon kickoff of the Hometown Huddle, approximately 50 students gathered in the school's auditorium where the Jets' Jesse Linder presented Chelsea School with a $5,000 check on behalf of the Jets and NFL Charities to cover the cost of today's projects: creating an outdoor reading area and refurbishing the school's playground.
Later, linebackers Barry Gardner and Kenyatta Wright and tight end James Dearth joined some of the kids in front of the school, where they planted flowers and shrubs and organized benches into a quaint reading area.
"I hope to promote volunteering and serving other people today," Dearth said. "We're put on a platform, and I think it's good for people to see us volunteering our time. It's pretty big for a community to come together and serve others."
Meanwhile, quarterback Brooks Bollinger and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery worked hand in hand with a group of students and teachers, painting benches and picnic tables on the playground in the back of the school.
"It's a great opportunity to get out and have a little time to interact with the kids and also make our surroundings a little more pleasant," Bollinger said. "The partnership between the NFL and the United Way has done nothing but great things all over the country, and it's great just to be a small part of that and to get out and do some of the hands-on things.
"Most of us, if not all of us, are not from this area, but the Jets have given us a vehicle to go out and get to know the community and work with the kids and improve their school and playground and help them be more successful."
One thing is for certain, the kids are going to appreciate the hard work of everyone involved in this year's Hometown Huddle.
"This is exciting," said Chelsea School principal Linore Lindy. "The kids had been asking for a garden all year."