The Patriots will continue to Celebrate Volunteerism in 2021

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 and the New England Patriots Foundation will celebrate 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, the Kraft family and Foundation recognizes one outstanding volunteer as the "Patriots Difference Maker of the Week." Seventeen outstanding volunteers will be named as a Patriots Difference Maker of the Week and will be featured on patriots.com.

As part of this recognition, the foundation will present a $5,000 donation to the nonprofit organization represented by each honoree. The Patriots Difference Makers will participate in a special year-end celebration and receive a pair of tickets to attend the Patriots final regular season home game on Jan. 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

This marks the 11th season that the Kraft family and the Patriots Foundation has presented their Patriots Difference Maker of the Week Award to volunteers from all across New England. Since its inception, 150 individuals have received this award and more than $675,000 has been donated to local nonprofit organizations.

The Kraft family and Foundation encourage all Patriots fans to join us by nominating an individual for the "Patriots Difference Maker of the Week award, making a donation to our collection drives or by volunteering in their local communities. Be sure to check back here throughout the season for the most up to date information on the Celebrate Volunteerism initiative.

Robert Kraft helps to plant flags outside of Gillette Stadium during Memorial Day weekend.
Robert Kraft helps to plant flags outside of Gillette Stadium during Memorial Day weekend.

Patriots Difference Makers of the Week


Nathan Persampieri

Newton, Mass.
Understanding Our Differences

The mission of Understanding Our Differences is to educate communities to value and accept people of all abilities through school-based, interactive disability awareness programs. The nonprofit serves more than 80 schools in eastern Massachusetts and beyond and is committed to teaching students to see the whole person and better understand the disability.

Living with cerebral palsy has presented a variety of challenges for Nathan, but he refuses to let it slow him down. Four years ago, as a junior in high school, Nathan coordinated a "Beyond Kindness" event at his school. The event featured a panel of students sharing their experiences about living with a disability, emphasizing the importance of understanding diversity and promoting inclusion. That summer, he served as an intern for the nonprofit, helping to assist staff members and building a disability curriculum for students.

Nathan is currently on the advisory board for the nonprofit and plays an active role as an advocate, ambassador and volunteer. He meets with school and city leaders to raise the profile of people with disabilities and encourages them to create new programs that raise awareness and encourage inclusion. Nathan continues to coordinate events and serves as a volunteer speaker for the nonprofit's physical disabilities unit.

With boundless energy, a great sense of humor and a welcoming personal style, Nathan instills confidence in people with disabilities and encourages them to share their stories. He also encourages people who do not have disabilities to better understand people who do and to be more comfortable interacting and making real connections.


Kenny Ouellette

Burlington, Mass.
People Helping People

For the past 40 years, People Helping People has been serving individuals and families in Burlington, ensuring they have basic needs including food and utilities. Growing up in a large family that experienced food insecurity, Kenny wanted to help those experiencing a similar situation.

Kenny has been volunteering at the nonprofit since 2016, providing weekly support as a volunteer for their food distribution programs. He has guided clients through the food pantry, helping them to select items and load up their vehicles. Kenny makes sure the pantry remains well-stocked at all times with fresh produce, dairy and meat.

He is the go-to guy for all necessary food pickups and delivers meals to families that are unable to visit the nonprofit. Over the past few years, Kenny has helped run the nonprofit's meal program for kids. He helps to provide breakfast, lunch and snacks to children who receive free or reduced lunch at school.

Kenny is also known as the handy man. From assembling shelving units to moving refrigerators to building ramps at the facility, Kenny continues to go above and beyond to ensure that the nonprofit continues to provide essential services to individuals and families in need.

During the pandemic, the nonprofit's client base increased by 40 percent and the kids program increased by 300 percent. Kenny remained steadfast in his commitment to the nonprofit, volunteering full-time to ensure their doors stayed open and securing additional food and storage space to meet the increased demand.


Monica Brady-Myerov

Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Hospitality Homes

Many individuals and families traveling to Boston for medical treatment simply do not have the means to stay in a hotel in Boston for one night, much less for weeks or months at a time. Hospitality Homes provides free and low-cost short-term housing in volunteer host homes and donated accommodations for patients, families and caregivers who travel to Boston for specialized medical care.

Monica began hosting patients and families traveling to Boston for medical treatment in 2010 when her children were young as a way to instill the importance of giving back. As they got older, she started hosting more families on a regular basis. Each year, more than 10 families are welcomed into Monica's home. Monica treats the patients and family members staying at her house as part of her own family. In addition to providing a clean and comfortable room with bathroom and kitchenette, she can also be found going above and beyond by cooking meals, driving them to appointments and simply being a good listener.

This past year, Monica was a lifeline to a young mother and her baby girl for more than six months. She offered them a personal connection and daily support in lieu of a place to stay, due to pandemic restrictions. Monica provided home cooked meals, groceries, arranged visits outside the hospital and even dropped off cupcakes and a personalized baby book for the family. She is improving the lives of these patients and families every single day that they are in Boston and this connection and support continues long after treatment. Monica continues to check in with the families once they return home, welcomes them back for follow up appointments and has been known to send the families holiday gifts.

In addition to hosting, Monica regularly attends monthly brown bag lunches at Hospitality Homes, helping to bring together families and hosts. She participated in marketing sessions with the board of directors, offered support for fundraising endeavors and successfully recruited several other families to join the program.

03. Anita Johnston - My Place Teen Center

Anita Johnson

Gorham, Maine
My Place Teen Center

Opened in 1998, My Place Teen Center is an after-school oasis for youth in Cumberland and York counties. Their mission is to provide a safe haven for youth ages 10-18, sustaining them with comfort, meals, resources and hope. The Teen Center provides free, year-round, positive youth development programs specializing in academics, character and leadership development, financial literacy, self-esteem and workforce development.

Anita has been with the Teen Center for more than five years. As a mentor, she works with the kids on their homework and socialization skills. As a volunteer cook, she oversees the production, service and clean-up of more than 9,000 meals per year. As a volunteer gardener, she can be found mulching, planting and watering the nonprofit's three perennial gardens.

On a typical day, more than 40 volunteers are on-site serving meals and facilitating programs for youth. During the pandemic, the Teen Center was down to just two volunteers – one of them being Anita. For the next nine months, Anita spent 20 hours per week hauling food supplies, unpacking boxes, manning the food pantry and cooking thousands of meals.

Thanks to Anita, the Teen Center never closed down. Instead, they expanded their efforts, providing essential services to more than 250 individuals each week, including gift cards, hygiene products, meal deliveries and curbside pickups, wellness checks and more.


Deborah Antanavica

Cherry Valley, Mass.
Deja New Leicester

Deja New Leicester is a nonprofit organization, led by a group of volunteers dedicated to improving the quality of life for local families. Having grown up in Leicester, Deborah co-founded the organization as a way to give back to neighbors in need.

The nonprofit assists families during emergencies, pays household bills for families in crisis and lends medical equipment not covered by insurance. They also sponsor targeted fundraisers for one-time necessities and provide students with internships focused around service and vocational skills.

As a co-founder and the secretary and clerk for the board of directors, Deborah wears many hats for the organization. Together with the Board of Directors, she develops the annual strategic plan, manages the budget and oversees Deja New's unique marketplace where they sell new and gently used furniture, home décor, toys and more. Thanks to her leadership, Deja New has purchased a wheelchair-accessible van for a child in need, helped purchase a seizure alert dog for a child with epilepsy, and much more.

In addition to her efforts at Deja New, Deborah is the founder and president of Leicester Hearts for Heat, helping to provide heat to more than 100 families each winter. She informs residents on how to apply for fuel assistance, reviews all of the applications to ensure that they meet the criteria for receiving aid, approves applications based on responses, manages the budget, and raises funds by doing targeted fundraisers. During the height of the pandemic, demand increased significantly, but due to Deb's diligence, she earned and saved enough money to help everyone in need.


Max Surprenant

Needham, Mass.
Catching Joy, Inc.

In 2008, when Max was four years old, he saw a homeless man for the first time and wanted to help. With the support of his family, he co-founded Catching Joy. Inc., a nonprofit that promotes volunteerism and acts of kindness beginning with kids, teens and families. He spends 10 to 15 hours per week organizing hands-on service projects to help share the responsibility and joy of giving.

At the start of the global Covid-19 pandemic, when the Boston Marathon was canceled, Max launched, "Catching Joy Marathon: 26 ways to aid essential workers and people in need." That has since evolved to an Ultra Marathon, rallying thousands of people to do good from home, providing 100 different opportunities to help, including collecting toiletries, clothing and making hearts cards with positive messages to spread empathy, kindness, love and hope.

Max donated blessing bags filled with much needed toiletries, disposable masks and heart cards to local nonprofits including St. Francis House and Pine Street Inn. He collected coats, hats, scarves and clothing for underserved schools. He also led Operation Sock Drop, providing more than 7,000 pairs of socks to those in need. Max also serves as a leader for several youth empowering organizations, encouraging his peers to get involved in their communities.

Over the past 13 years, Max has partnered with schools, nonprofits, businesses and community leaders, mobilizing an estimated 100,000 people to participate in various service projects. He proves that age is not a weakness but a strength as he demonstrates that you are never too young to start giving back.