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Patriots Celebrate Volunteerism in 2023

The Celebrate Volunteerism initiative aims to share examples of dedicated volunteers, build awareness of the need for volunteering, identify and educate others about volunteer opportunities and inspire New Englanders to follow the Kraft family's example of becoming lifelong volunteers.

Throughout the season, the Kraft family, the New England Patriots Foundation and Gillette celebrated volunteers that work tirelessly to support children and families in need throughout the New England region, while also encouraging Patriots fans to get involved in their communities.

Each week throughout the season, the Patriots selected a "Patriots Difference Maker of the Week." You can learn more about the 2023 winners below.

Chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots Robert Kraft, President of the New England Patriots Foundation Josh Kraft and Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett take a group photo with the 2023 Patriots Difference Makers of the Week.
Chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots Robert Kraft, President of the New England Patriots Foundation Josh Kraft and Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett take a group photo with the 2023 Patriots Difference Makers of the Week.

Patriots Difference Makers of the Week


Macey Russell

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro South
Brockton, Mass.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro South is the preeminent youth development organization in Southeastern Massachusetts, serving more than 2,500 youth annually from nearly 50 communities. In 2015, Macey started the Next Level Football program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro South, a free combined college preparation and athletics training program for young male athletes in Brockton. Brockton has been designated as a Gateway City, and as a native of the city, Macey understands the importance of this type of program.

The program annually serves more than 50 under resources football players. Macey himself leads the program participants through intensive educational and athletic training as they learn about the academic expectations at the college level and how to be a role model in their community.

Macey's role extends far beyond coaching football; he acts as a mentor and role model, working to prepare youth for rigorous college academics and instilling valuable life skills such as respect, professionalism, and accountability. Through coaching, taking youth on college visits and recruiting and managing guest speakers, Macey dedicates countless hours to improving the futures of young male athletes in Brockton.

He aims to close the opportunity gap and level the playing field between young athletes in Brockton and athletes in more affluent communities. 95% of program participants enroll in a 4-year university after high school, showing the impact he is having on the youth he works with. Macey is a strong leader, a positive role model and an invaluable contributor to the organization.


Judith Locke

Dignity Matters
Wayland, Mass.

Dignity Matters works to improve the lives of women and girls living below the poverty line by giving them free menstrual care and underwear. Having reliable access to these items removes a significant barrier to leading a full, productive, and healthy life. Dignity Matters currently supports 15,000 women and girls in Eastern Massachusetts each month, while advocating for legislation in Massachusetts that will reach even more women.

After learning about Dignity Matters, Judi began asking friends to donate menstrual products, asking them to host donation bins. She regularly helps Dignity Matters pack for distribution, refurbish gently used bras, and inventory donations. As a teacher, she knows how many girls and women go without basic necessities like menstrual care.

She spends 8-10 hours every week washing bras, securing product donations and working with small businesses to host drives. Her and her husband use their laundromat business to assist with preparing donations. Dignity Matters has over 100 regular volunteers, and many of them look up to Judi and model their own service after her commitment and perseverance.

Judi's work securing product donations, cash donations, and auction items enables Dignity Matters to provide more homeless and low-income women and girls with the menstrual care they need to safely manage their period every month. Through her efforts, she is directly responsible for improving the lives and affirming the dignity of thousands of women.


Kashawn Sanders

Follow My Steps Foundation
Springfield, Mass.

Founded in 2020, the primary goal of the Follow My Steps Foundation is to combat the economic insecurity of minority communities in Hampden County, Massachusetts by giving students from these backgrounds comprehensive mentoring services. Their specialty is career readiness and financial literacy, which are taught to youth in Springfield-area high schools in one-on-one mentoring sessions.

As the president and co-founder of the nonprofit, Kashawn has not overlooked the socioeconomic conditions that his Springfield neighborhood has continually dealt with. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with a major in business management, Kashawn proceeded to establish FMS as a means of spreading the gift of occupational wisdom to fellow African Americans and high schoolers from other economically challenged minority groups.

He has recruited 40 mentors who work one on one with more 2,000 teenagers. The goal of FMS is to turn students into thinkers, workers and innovators; and have them become active participants in the world they live in. Data shows that students who are getting off track in their education but had a FMS mentor are 55% more likely to enroll in college, 130% more likely to hold leadership positions, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly and 90% are interested in becoming mentors.

Kashawn put together two preparatory conventions that included an array of experts from fields like politics, entrepreneurship, and others that pertained directly to career readiness who graduated from nearby colleges. He believes that helping youth map out their futures is a game changer for success.


Carole Kenney

Joe Q Veteran Coffee Break, Inc.
Falmouth, Mass.

Carole is a founding member of Joe Q Veteran Coffee Break, a non-profit organized in 2015 to honor Joe Quintiliani, a Coast Guard veteran and Falmouth community activist and advocate. It was Joe's dream to establish a central Cape Cod location where military and civic support groups could unite and consolidate services for military families in need. The goal of the nonprofit is to build an all-inclusive veteran community that promotes fellowship and create a place where veterans are comfortable seeking support and informational services in the Cape Cod area.

A Blue Star mother herself, Carole uses her extensive network to recruit volunteers and raise money for the organization. Her passion and support for Joe Q has helped raise more than $200,000 in donated services and $80,000 in cash. Her efforts are truly tireless. When Joe Q was ready to secure its first lease, she worked with the Town of Falmouth to negotiate the lease of an abandoned town building and spent two years managing the renovation process.

She is a lifelong volunteer who as acted as a teacher, community advocate and supporter of veterans and their families. In her spare time, Carole coordinates The Wounded Warrior Ride on Cape Cod, raises funds for the Falmouth Walk and Falmouth Road Race, works with the Police Department to deliver winter coats, works with other veterans groups to deliver holiday gifts to veterans, organizes volunteers, hosts events to highlight the work of all Cape Cod military support organizations, single-handedly organizes golf tournaments to benefit cape wide Veterans groups, and serves as the community liaison to military families at Joint Base Cape Cod. Carole is also a member of the Town of Falmouth's Veterans Council.


Tina Guenette Pedersen

RAMP (Real Access Motivates Progress)
Burrillville, RI

Tina has faced many health challenges, including being a 4x cancer survivor. Nine years ago, Tina suffered a spinal stroke, paralyzing her from the waist down. Through these difficulties, Tina has kept a positive attitude and pushed to create meaningful change. She now runs her own national nonprofit based and started in Rhode Island: Real Access Motivates Progress, or RAMP.

Tina educates and advocates for accessibility and inclusion for everyone. She is someone who tries to lead by example. You can find Tina helping homeless individuals, volunteering in a soup kitchen, pushing for positive change at the state house or lending a helping hand to a friend in need. No matter what she is going through, nothing stops Tina from helping others.

Community service is in Tina's DNA. She has completed more than 4,700 hours of community service in the past year. She uses RAMP as a way to share accessibility information with the public. She works with schools, businesses and first responders to improve communication and practices when working with the disability community.

In 2023, Tina was appointed by President Biden to serve on the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Access Board. She is working to ensure that designs are accessible and inclusive to those with disabilities. Tina has overcome life's adversity and turned it into an opportunity to help and be a voice for others.


Roger Franklin

Day Kimball Healthcare
Putnam, CT

Roger Franklin is an 85 year-old dedicated, volunteer at Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam, CT. Roger began volunteering 20 years ago after his wife, Ruth, passed away. Ruth became ill and was part of the hospice program at DKH. After seeing firsthand the type of care the program delivered, Roger wanted to give back and be a part of the organization that helped him and his wife.

He has been a "4 Wheel Drive Volunteer" by picking up staff and getting them safely to the hospital or the hospice nurses to their patients homes in winter storms. He has also been a baby "Cuddler Volunteer" spending numerous hours rocking babies born into addiction who require extra attention. Roger volunteers every single day and always gives his best.

He is Chair of the Friends of Hospice Committee, helps with bereavement groups, keeps statistics for Pastoral Care, completes advanced directives and scans them into patients medical records, sets up for events, delivers the daily mail, celebrates all of the staffs' special occasions, bakes each of staff member a personalized birthday cake and is always there with a witty comment when needed most.

He is heavily involved in the community, participating in almost every community event. He was born and raised in Putnam, and will help anyone, anytime. He is well known within his community as someone who will do anything to help others. He is giving and loves to make the people around him smile. Overall, Roger is a positive influence to be around.


Josh King

Warwick, RI

Staffed with highly qualified mental health care professionals and extensively trained community volunteers, FRIENDS WAY provides peer support to children and their families in a safe and nurturing environment, serving families throughout New England. Conducting more than 150 presentations and in-service training workshops about guiding children through their loss and grief, they have become a proven resource for Rhode Island agencies that seek bereavement services for their community members.

Josh came to FRIENDS WAY after the death of his dad, Tracy, in the Station Nightclub Fire. He attended along with his mom and younger brother, Jake, as they wanted to be around others who would understand their grief journey. Josh has been volunteering on a bi-weekly basis for 8 years and continues to be a lead contact for camp. During the group meetings, Josh attends the premeeting to learn about any new families that are enrolled in FRIENDS WAY grief program.

He does an incredible job in welcoming the new families and building on relationships from week to week with the kids. He can be found drawing on the chalkboard tablecloths, eating pizza and laughing and joking with kids and adults, alike. During group, he co-facilitates with two other volunteers, leading the expressive arts activities, to encourage sharing of feelings, memories and coping skills.

Josh has been able to grow through his own grief journey as he has now been without his dad for 20 years. Josh has touched so many lives in his time at FRIENDS WAY, from being a participant to a volunteer. It is also a family affair, as he and his mom, Evelyn, are integral to camp being a success each year. He is the first one to volunteer to help at an event. Josh improves the lives of everyone he encounters.


Saige Merwin

Elbowbumpkid Inc.
Haddam, CT

Saige was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as a baby and has been helping others with the disease for many years. Now 16, Saige has talked to many newly diagnosed kids through the years. Saige's tireless advocacy for the insulin bill passed in Connecticut in 2020 saves families thousands of dollars each year and inspired others to advocate to their elected officials.

Saige's mentoring of newly diagnosed and helping younger kids at events creates a sense of community for children to see that there are others just like them. Elbowbumpkid Inc is named after Saige, who was nicknamed the Elbowbumpkid years ago in the diabetes community due to elbow bumping instead of hand shaking. Saige's continued presence and willingness to take time out of their busy teenage life to volunteer to help families is a gift.

Saige truly believes in the power of community and knows the importance of having peers that relate to the daily challenges associated with managing Type 1 Diabetes. Saige doesn't hesitate to volunteer for events despite having an active teenager social life, this provides a resource for other T1D kids and caregivers to ask questions about how they navigate their T1D at school, sports & friends outings.

The younger kids look up to Saige as a role model. Saige doesn't hesitate to ask a business for a donation, spend hours on the weekend putting together donation bags for families, talk a child through inserting a new medical device or anything that is needed to help this nonprofit thrive and help as many families as possible in CT & MA. Saige has spoken at a diabetes conference for several years to inspire other children to fundraise and get involved.


Major Shannon B. Blake, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Shelburne, VT

Shannon has spent his entire adult life focusing on service to others. After graduation from UVM and the Reserve Officer Training Program, Shannon entered the Army and became a combat helicopter pilot. While deployed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom he sustained physical and psychological injuries due to numerous and sustained combat operations.

WARRIOR SOAR (Support, Outreach, Assistance, Recovery) was established by Major Shannon Blake (U.S. Army – Retired) in 2017 to help wounded veterans reintegrate into society and heal from both physical and mental injuries. The program focuses on mentorship, outreach, comradery, and the opportunity to participate in a variety of indoor and outdoor sporting activities. WARRIORS SOAR has approximately 350 wounded veterans participating in events and mentorship across the Unites States.

He has been instrumental in the recruiting and retention of his volunteer base of individuals to provide interactive sports programs and mentorship. Being a smart leader, Shannon has also established excellent working relationships with other nonprofits serving wounded military veterans. He proactively engages with several other veterans support organizations to promote sporting activities for the wounded veterans.

Shannon has selflessly served his community, fellow wounded military veterans, and our country with pride and distinction. As the founder, and current leader of WARRIORS SOAR he continues to make a lasting and positive impact on the lives of others. He has recruited 8 board members, 6 program directors who manage the golf tournaments, as well as 5 program directors to run the golfing, fishing, sailing ice fishing and baseball fantasy camp. His spirit for volunteerism and supporting wounded military personnel is not only inspirational but attracts the time and talent of others.


Joe Montminy

Alzheimer's Association MA/NH
Waltham, MA

Alzheimer's disease, which affects 14% of people over 65 in Massachusetts–nearly 140,000 individuals– is the most common form of brain disease known as dementia. Joe Montminy is living with Younger-Onset Alzheimer's. Joe began his work with the Alzheimer's Association after his diagnosis in 2017, when he was in his early 50's. Joe's diagnosis has impelled him to act, speak out, and lead, in a way that the MA/NH chapter has never witnessed before.

Joe is a catalyst: he gets things done for those living with Alzheimer's. Wherever the needs, rights, and futures of people with Alzheimer's are being discussed, Joe helps shape the conversation. Joe was a member of the Massachusetts state task force that identified and recommended solutions to address the top unmet needs for people living with younger-onset dementia in Massachusetts. The MA Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Disease and All Other Dementias adopted these recommendations.

Joe has just been invited by the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs to help them better understand the needs of older residents and those living with disabilities (such as dementia) and their caregivers. Joe's enthusiasm and leadership have helped his Walk to End Alzheimer's team raise nearly $100,000 in five years. The proceeds from the walk support the full mission of the Association: research, advocacy, and care and support services for those with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

As vital as Joe's advocacy work is, he also can be counted on to provide friendship and support at a personal level too. As a member of the MA/NH Early Stage Advisory support group, Joe often takes the lead in inviting other people living with Alzheimer's in the community to engage in this safe place. Joe has traveled throughout New England, using his personal time to reach out to others living with Alzheimer's to see what they need.


Charlie Austin

Special Olympics Maine
South Portland, ME

Charlie Austin grew up a three season all star athlete playing soccer, basketball and baseball. In 2018, at the age of 12, his sports career abruptly ended when he was unexpectedly diagnosed with a rare, progressive cardiac condition. He was told by his cardiac team at Boston Children's Hospital that he could never play competitive sports again due to his new cardiac limitations. Charlie was crushed at his life altering diagnosis, however, he turned his disappointment into helping others.

In January of 2019, Charlie began coaching basketball for his local Special Olympics basketball team. From there, he became involved with Special Olympics Maine at the state level by being appointed to the Special Olympics State of Maine Youth Council in 2020. As a member of the Youth Council, Charlie helped facilitate the Maine Summer Games in 2021 as well as helped facilitate the Maine State Unified golf program in 2021.

In July of 2021, Charlie was selected to serve as a U.S. Youth Ambassador for Special Olympics of North America. This two year ambassadorship allowed Charlie to travel all over the United States including D.C., Utah and Florida advocating for people living with intellectual disability to be able to compete in sports. As his capstone project for Special Olympics of North America, Charlie spearheaded his high school meeting 10 standards of excellence to become certified as a Special Olympics Unified Champion School.

Charlie has served many responsibilities with the Special Olympics organization; but his favorite role is meeting other kids who love sports and helping them become the best athletes they can be. He has completed dozens of missions for the organization. In 2022, Charlie was awarded Young Maine Volunteer of the Year for his volunteerism with Special Olympics. Charlie believes people with intellectual disabilities should be able to play sports at the highest level, so he works tirelessly to advocate for Special Olympics.


Matthew Reid

Camp No Limits
Wales, ME

The mission of Camp No Limits is to educate and empower young people with limb difference and limb loss to discover and develop a healthy, happy and independent lifestyle. Matthew has been volunteering as a teen mentor for Camp No Limits for the last 2 years. Matthew has bilateral fibular hemimelia with congenital amputation of the right foot. He has a boyd amputation on the left, fused fingers on the right hand.

Matthew has been a camper with Camp No Limits since 2015, when he began attending at the age of 9. He has been actively involved with camp with his siblings as well learning basic skills including running, and biking. At 16 years old, he has now taken on the role of a "teen mentor" educating other campers and parents on what is possible with a limb difference.

He participates in the life skills sessions including the Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Life skills sessions where he is able to show how he has adapted to daily life tasks including bathing, dressing, riding a bike, running, fine motor skills, computer skills, cutting food, and more. He is able to share with other campers and also parents how he adapts and assists campers to figure out how they too can adapt to daily life activities.

Matthew has found a passion for wheelchair basketball and is now competitively playing in this sport. He has been able to come to camp and share his passion with others and talk about what it takes to participate in this sport. Matthew is able to verbally share his struggles and share what has empowered him and helped him to continue to go after his passion. He is able to empower others just by sharing his journey. He works well with the younger kids and will help encourage them to try new things.


John Hand

De Novo Center for Justice and Healing
Cambridge, Mass.

De Novo Center for Justice and Healing is a dynamic values-driven agency that provides client-driven integrated civil legal assistance and affordable mental health counseling to low-income people. De Novo provides many of its services through the efforts of over 120 volunteer attorneys, clinical social workers, psychologists, paralegals, interpreters, student interns and other professionals who together contribute one-half million dollars in direct services each year.

In 2006, John Hand joined De Novo as a volunteer pro bono attorney in the immigration unit. Since then, he has dedicated himself to working with clients seeking refuge in the United States from torture and persecution in their home countries by representing De Novo clients in asylum cases. He has spent his life representing poor and disadvantaged clients and expanding access to justice to underserved populations. He has worked particularly with LGBT asylum seekers and has sought to promote community support of these particularly vulnerable clients. LGBT asylum cases are especially complex and the legal elements are very difficult to prove.

When his clients' needs have extended beyond just legal help, he has taken the initiative to advocate for them and connect them to additional resources. Many clients have additional needs beyond legal services, and John has always viewed his clients as whole people who he supports in many ways. He has paid clients' filing fees, helped clients secure stable housing and taken it upon himself to make sure they feel at home. John takes every opportunity to build a connection with his clients and make sure that they feel welcome and supported throughout.

John always treats clients with the respect they deserve which is especially impactful when many of his clients have suffered severe trauma and meet him at the lowest points of their lives. Every single one of John's clients whose case has been heard was granted asylum, a testament to his meticulous case preparation. John's work also represents how supporting an asylum client is also an opportunity to help the client reclaim their dignity and sense of self-worth.


Dawn Tatro

Jenna's Promise
Johnson, VT

Jenna's Promise is creating a paradigm shifting model for caring for individuals with substance use disorders, mental health challenges, and complex traumas. Some of the people they serve have multiple diagnoses, and some are survivors of human trafficking, incarceration, and other major barriers. Jenna's Promise, which serves Vermonters throughout the state, is comprised currently of a community and recovery center, Jenna's House, three recovery residences housing seventeen women, and several social enterprises that help reintegrate people into the workforce and community, teach job skills, and help them being more stable financially and otherwise.

Dawn is a founder of Jenna's Promise and the mother of the namesake, Jenna Rae Tatro, who died of an opioid overdose on February 15, 2019. In the immediate aftermath of Jenna's passing, her family created Jenna's Promise and from the start Dawn has worked to build the organization entirely without compensation and despite also having another job.

She and her husband Greg have contributed well over $1 million of their own money to the organization and helping people. Dawn's greatest contribution has been by directly working with individuals struggling with substance use disorders and their families. She not only serves as a recovery coach but also founded a family support group to serve parents and other family members. She has helped hundreds of people get into treatment for their addictions and other forms of help. She has directly contributed to saving dozens if not hundreds of lives.

Prior to the founding of Jenna's Promise, Johnson was declining as a town. Overdoses, trafficking and other issues were rampant. There were many vacant buildings. And Johnson has one of the highest poverty rates in the state. There were no recovery organizations located in town. In four years, Jenna's Promise has acquired, renovated and brought to life many of the vacant buildings as thriving businesses. People now say "I used to come to Johnson for drugs. Now I come for recovery."


Richard Lappin

Providence Promise
Providence, RI

PVD Promise promotes educational aspirations and equitable opportunities for Providence Public School students by advocating for college savings accounts (CSAs) and family engagement, increasing financial literacy, and reducing the financial burden of higher education. Richard Lappin has a long history of volunteering, but his service to PVD Promise over the last nine years is an exceptional example of his commitment to improving our community.

Richard founded PVD Promise because he saw a need for college access and preparation services and financial literacy, especially for marginalized students and their families. He also envisioned the long-term, systemic impact this program will have by facilitating a college going culture and ultimately contributing to a more educated workforce and economic development.

Rather than developing a program based on his own thoughts, Richard spent nearly two years conducting focus groups with local families, school staff and administrators, community organizations, and elected officials to ensure the program was responsive to the community it intended to serve. This feedback, paired with extensive research into other programs across the country, eventually developed into the robust program that exists today. Currently, 974 students from 500 families have over $1,000,000 in cumulative college savings and PVD Promise has been effective in promoting a college-going culture within enrollees, their families, and the broader Providence community.

Richard's energy and enthusiasm are contagious and his passion for the work PVD Promise does is palpable. As a key relationship builder for the organization, he spends a lot of his time educating people in the community about the work PVD Promise does. What sets Richard apart is his compassion, proactiveness, desire to center community voice, and his humbleness.


Kirk Hamel

Girls on the Run Rhode Island
Central Falls, RI

As a volunteer, Coach Kirk provides opportunities for girl-identifying youth to participate in Girls on the Run programming throughout Central Falls, RI. He ensures all elementary age youth in the community, no matter their abilities and backgrounds, have a chance to develop values that shape important character traits and qualities, and he provides tools to help with social-emotional understanding and management. He does this all while emphasizing the positives of an active healthy lifestyle.

He is such an effective volunteer coach because he uses upbeat mantras and the repetition of confident cheers with an energy level that is always encouraging. Coaches are the key to making each Girls on the Run team successful, and no one is more valuable and remarkable than Coach Kirk. He is everything a role model, mentor, and caring adult should be. He is improving the lives of youth daily and preparing them to be their best in the future.

His commitment and inspiring heart also make other volunteer coaches better. He makes sure each girl has the proper footwear and activewear to perform to the best of her ability. Each season he goes above and beyond to bring in successful female speakers from the community (the mayor, police/military officers, small business owners, those in the field of STEM) to help the youth gain new perspectives and further build their aspirations.

Coach Kirk takes the Girls on the Run curriculum and enhances it in ways that will make it relatable and memorable to the youth he serves. His language is intentional and optimistic. He communicates

very effectively with the participants families, many for whom English is a second language and gets them engaged and proud of what their daughters are learning and accomplishing with Girls on the Run. Everything Coach Kirk does has a positive impact on the youth in the Central Falls community and on the nonprofit.


Linda Hall

Parkinson's Fitness
Salem, Mass.

The mission of Parkinson's Fitness is to provide free fitness and health-based resources to residents and caregivers of Boston's North Shore who are currently living with Parkinson's Disease, as movement has been shown to greatly ease the symptoms. They have fostered a strong community of fighters and caregivers who are able to support one another in their journeys with Parkinson's by fostering a community that reminds everyone that they are never alone in their fight.

Linda founded the organization more than 10 years ago after her husband had been living with the disease for several years. She saw the benefits that fitness had provided him and wanted to extend that to those in her community. She has led the organization ever since as a coordinator, instructor, fundraiser and every role in between. Linda has provided members with something to look forward to every week and provide them with ways that they can reach out to others and create new and lasting friendships.

She is incredibly active with the members they serve, building personal relationships with those living with Parkinson's and their caregivers. She has improved the lives of others in the community by creating a community in and of itself. Prior to the founding of Parkinson's Fitness, there were little to no resources for those living with Parkinson's on the North Shore outside of the care they were receiving from their doctors. This served the need of having a community of those who were living with similar experiences by allowing them to connect with one another.

Linda is heavily involved in her community, engaging with many organizations. She is a beam of infectious positivity that can easily be seen on the faces of those around her. She is always the first one to offer a helping hand and many others are inspired to do the same following her lead.