Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his wife Myra honored 13 community volunteers at an awards ceremony at Gillette Stadium today. The midday luncheon was part of the Community Quarterbacks program that recognizes leaders in the community who have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of others.
The Patriots Charitable Foundation and NFL Charities teamed up to award a total of $25,000 to local non-profit charities in the names of some of the region's most dedicated and deserving volunteers.
"These are nameless people who are just out doing great things every day and this is what makes our community special," Kraft said. "When you see the kind of selfless work that these people are doing, I'll tell you it is reassuring that people are reaching out to other people in need who have no advocates and they are doing the kind of work they are doing. It is a great honor for us to partner with these folks and be a part of it."
Kraft and the entire Patriots organization have made charitable affairs a major goal since taking over the franchise in 1994. Today's ceremony gave the team a chance to recognize others who have done the same in their own lives.
David Hanwell of Rehoboth, Mass., was recognized as the grand prize winner and will have $10,000 donated to the organization at which he volunteers, the Horace Mann Education Associates of Franklin, Mass. Hanwell has volunteered for disabled adults for more than 18 years and saw a need for better living conditions as a volunteer at HEMA. He founded a group of laymen at HMEA affectionately known as "The Cosmic Cavemen" who volunteer their time and skills on nights and weekends to build/renovate/paint group homes to create additional living space, thereby helping disabled adults find safe, healthy living environments in group settings.
Two runner-up awards of $2,500 were given to the chosen organizations of Patrick Richards of Fall River, Mass., and William Orme-Johnson of Cambridge, Mass. Richards volunteers at the New Bedford (Mass.) office of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, while Orme-Johnson works with the Cambridge office of the Massachusetts Alzheimer's Association.
Ten finalists also were recognized on Thursday, with the chosen charity of each receiving a $1,000 donation. Those finalists were Dr. Maurice "Ed" Keenan of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Karen Karol of The Horizon's Initiative, Elizabeth Kirsten of the Massachusetts Alzheimer's Association, Patricia Ho of the Asian Task Force on Domestic Violence, Kern Grimes of the Dimock Community Health Center, Gisele Rizzo of the Italian Home for Children, Cathy and John Bentwood of the Pemi-Bridge House, Anna Vogler of Arts for Life, Johnnett West-Netter of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) and Patricia Muse of the North End Music and Performing Arts Center.
"When we bought the team, part of our objective was we wanted to win on the field and off the field," Kraft said. "And just having the people here feeling the way that they feel today being connected with the Patriots organization and us being connected with them, there is a reward from that that you don't get in other areas. That is one of the privileges of owning a sports team: You can use the power of the team to do as much good in the community as you can."
Kraft also said that he is very happy with the organization's accomplishments through charitable endeavors since he acquired the franchise and that he hopes they are creating a lasting philanthropic tradition that will continue to grow.
"Our objective is to be the champions in that area," Kraft said to reporters following the awards ceremony. "I think we are in the top three to five teams. A number of teams do a lot of good things, but we didn't have the legacy that some of the other great NFL franchises have that have been in families for over 50 years doing a lot of good things. We are trying to create that legacy in terms of the players whose pictures you see up around the stadium and that requires us to do more winning and also align ourselves with charities where we can make a difference."